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There's a family of firms that provide document policy compliance and classification capabilities--FileTek, MessageGate, NextPage and Orchestria, among them--that compete in the same sphere to meet the needs of companies with complex retention policies. An ediscovery request can spiral out of hand if too much data has been stored, says Babineau. One large firm recently spent $12 million sorting through records--57% of them kept past their retention period--during a request, he says.

"There's no reason why people should keep everything, and no reason why they should keep it past the requirements," says Babineau.

Tory Skyers, principal at New Jersey-based consultancy Sashacompany, says he fields a lot of questions from IT shops at small- and medium-sized businesses that are struggling with retention policies. "People are confused as to which way they should go," says Skyers. "I feel like people are running very, very hard in both directions at the same time. They're deleting things right away they probably shouldn't or saving everything.

"Saving everything is the biggest pitfall," says Skyers. "It costs money and you have to manage it. And just because you have everything, doesn't mean you can find it."

--Ellen O'Brien

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This was first published in August 2008

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