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Editorial: Whaddaya mean you can't find it?

Ezine

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Whaddaya mean you can't find it?


Cop a plea. Throw yourself on the mercy of the court. Plead the fifth or claim temporary insanity. As distasteful as all of these options may seem, any one of them is bound to be better than standing in a courtroom and telling the judge, "I, uh, can't find that particular email right now."

If you think you couldn't possibly wind up sweating it out as the centerpiece in a courtroom drama, think again. By the time a request for documentary evidence trickles down from the CEO to the CIO to the compliance officer and the legal team, all eyes could be focused on the person who's ultimately responsible for storing and protecting the corporate information in question. If important information has gone missing, you can count on plenty of finger-pointing in your direction.

A slew of industry analysts and IT market watchers say ediscovery will be among the hottest technologies this year. My bet is that those predictions are based on conversations with CxOs and other corner-office types. If the prognosticators had listened to storage professionals, they might have heard a very different story. It seems many storage pros still don't believe that ediscovery and related technologies have much to do with them or their job descriptions.

In a recent survey we conducted to gauge storage managers' priorities for 2008, ediscovery landed

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way down on the list, and a disappointing number--fewer than 6%--reported having deployed some sort of ediscovery application. The outlook for this year isn't very encouraging either, with a mere 11% of respondents planning ediscovery deployments. Fifty-six percent say they have no plans for ediscovery. I think they're making a mistake.

A little over a year old now, the revised Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) set down some game-changing regulations related to the discovery and furnishing of digital information. Basically, these new rules state that you should have a retention and discovery process in place or your company could face big penalties.

Still, a lot of companies and storage managers don't seem to be taking the FRCP and other regulatory ordinances very seriously. According to a survey conducted by Osterman Research for email archiving app vendor MessageOne, 53% of respondent companies lack a formal policy that states what email should be retained and what email should be dumped. If that number doesn't get your attention, try this one: Two-thirds of surveyed companies allow end users to determine how long to hold onto email.

If you're thinking how lucky you are not to be the person dealing with those problems, don't get too comfortable. The chances are very good that you could become the "other guy" at any time. If corporate counsel wants to know what happened to those very important emails, you can be sure they're not going to grill end users about their own retention rules. They're going to turn their attention straight to the storage team because that's where they'll find the people responsible for the company's information store. And if you run that shop, you can be guaranteed a spot on the hot seat.

The ball's in your court or will be. Do you want to load years of backup tapes and then scan that data with substandard search tools? We're not talking hours here; it's more like weeks and months. That's an effort likely to cost plenty in real dollars and throttle productivity.

Or you can take action now and build a viable data-retention system. It's your storage, and your job to give your company's data a safe home. You do a good job protecting it. Now you should make sure it's available--or discoverable--for the right people at the right time.

This was first published in February 2008

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