The process of e-discovery can be a daunting task, with scores of disparate systems spanning an enterprise. A typical starting point is the collection and preservation of the electronically stored information that carries the highest legal risk.
But IT organizations can't limit the scope to email, because other content types might also be potentially relevant to a litigation proceeding. They need to develop e-discovery and data retention strategies in the context of all of their systems.
Here are some best practices, provided by analysts, vendors and users, for storage professionals to consider as they tackle e-discovery.
1. Get legal on board.
Open the lines of communication with legal counsel and business stakeholders. Determine what information they're storing and why they're storing it. As the legal side shares its requirements, the storage team must explain the ramifications, especially if they don't have the time, budget or resources to address those needs.
2. Set clear e-discovery policies.
Sheila Childs, director of product marketing for compliance and archiving at EMC Corp., said having solid strategies matters to the courts.
Setting data retention policies in consultation with the legal staff will help the storage team make technology decisions, manage the systems, streamline processes and reduce the time needed to process information requests.
"If you can't produce your information because you've been adhering to that process, that's much different than if you did some kind of willful destruction of your data," she said. "So these policies become very important."
3. Keep cleaning house.
The more data an organization keeps, the more data lawyers potentially have to sift through during the review and analysis state. That can mean millions of dollars in legal fees for some companies, even for just one lawsuit.
Attorney Laura Kibbe, senior vice president of document review services at Epiq Systems Inc., said the law requires an organization to save data relevant to litigation once it has reasonable notice. There are plenty of statutes, depending on vertical industry or geographic location, that require some form of records retention, but aside from those retention obligations, organizations aren't required to hold the data longer, she said.
4. Decide which storage media meets those requirements.
The Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) outlines the steps in the e-discovery process. An organization's legal team can clarify requirements and specific needs. Then it's typically up to the storage team to determine what technology will work best.
5. Seek out vendors and products that can archive multiple content types.
Most organizations have multiple archives for different applications and types of content. Consolidating those systems, wherever possible, as well as establishing consistent data storage and retention policies for them, will help to restore organization to the chaos.