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The What, Where, When, and Who of Your Data

by on October 22, 2008

 

(Understanding and Preparing for eDiscovery – Part II)

 

In Part 2 of our look at eDiscovery, today  want to talk about what you are responsible for. And in a word: everything.

You see, the first section of the amended rules, Rule 26(a)(1), states that companies must provide to the court a description by both category and location of its electronically stored data, as well as its level of accessibility.  This portion of the amendment has effectively made every court case an adventure in eDiscovery readiness and has caused companies to re-examine their data management systems. Given the scope of what is admissible, saving every piece of data indefinitely seems an insurmountable burden. It would be taxing enough for a company to try to store this vast amount of data, but now each company must know what data is stored, where it is stored, for how long, who has accessed it, and then be able to retrieve all of this information when required to do so.

In order to manage this volume of stored electronic data, companies are employing data retention policies that allow documents to be tagged with a “lifespan.” Files, emails, instant messages and the like have retention schedules based on a multitude of factors: the contents, who generated it, what it pertains to, the likelihood it will be needed for potential litigation, and any applicable regulations (e.g., SOX, HIPAA). When a document reaches the end of its lifespan, it may then be destroyed.

Again, having a basic retention strategy may seem straightforward. However, for companies facing multiple lawsuits, the complexity of the data can result in crossover holds for a single item when the data pertains to different lawsuits. Thus it becomes imperative that companies know what they have, where it is, and for how long they are expected to have it.

This knowledge can also ultimately save companies money.  Corporations do not want to, and cannot afford to, keep data longer than they have to; it is expensive to store, expensive to retrieve, and expensive to restore for admission as evidence. Knowing what information is relevant and where to find it, allows for streamlining an otherwise cumbersome process.

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