IT Takes on Holistic eDiscovery and Legal Hold Management as Part of Growing Enterprise Role

IT’s role in the enterprise has changed dramatically in just the last few years – most notably in its responsibilities and workloads. No longer is it enough for IT to manage data protection recovery, networks, systems, and storage, but its responsibilities have expanded as it has merged with other operational and strategic business functions. This is forcing IT to develop a holistic understanding of the needs of the entire organization to ensure that the technology it deploys meets those needs as well as aligns with the larger company strategy.

A good example of this is the merger of IT and records management that has occurred in many organizations. Records management was once a matter of physical space and many of its functions were spread across departments. But because of the physical nature of records management, rarely did the paths of IT and records managements cross.

Today’s reality paints a much different picture. As data storage costs plummeted, organizations digitized and moved their records management assets to electronic storage. This resulted in a migration of information first from filing cabinets to file servers and, more recently, to Microsoft SharePoint. The end result is that it has gotten to the point where IT and records management are essentially one and the same.

This has had the net effect of making IT a part of new strategic corporate initiatives which they were rarely involved before and is forcing them to get up to speed on regulations germane to records management. For example, regulations such as the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) are forcing IT to become experts in legal processes so they can help make decisions that directly impact a company’s ability to respond to eDiscovery and legal hold requests.

A side effect of this is IT has assuming responsibility for these new information stores such as Microsoft SharePoint data repositories. Because they are, it stands to reason that SharePoint data stores are also subject to eDiscoveries and legal holds. Further, as these SharePoint data stores swell, archiving products that originally focused on solving email management issues are now asked to archive information in SharePoint data stores.

To accommodate these ongoing changes in the legal landscape, products traditionally focused on email are evolving to support SharePoint. Software such as Symantec’s Enterprise Vault (EV) is one example of a technology that that has evolved from primarily supporting email and file archiving to now include support for SharePoint. EV provides features such as:

  • Automating the collection of Electronically Stored Information (ESI). There are numerous examples of the courts becoming intolerant of legal hold mistakes, such as Phillip M. Adams v. Dell and the recent Peschel v. City of Missoula. It is not enough to have policies for data retention and deletion; companies must also enforce these policies. In the case of SharePoint, this is only possible using tools that integrate with it and then automate the archiving and retention of data according to these policies.
  • Reducing the risks associated with spoilation If spoilation of data evidence occurs, this can and most likely will have a severe impact on a company’s case. Companies need to manage this risk by ensuring any duty to preserve electronic evidence can be accommodated immediately. EV provides the ability to put a legal hold for preservation of Sharepoint e-mails, instant messages, files etc. EV brings Sharepoint’s data stores into the archive allowing legal hold across archived data. This gives management control over deletion of documents for destruction of data according to policy or for a legal hold mandate.
  • Integrating content archiving. EV provides a centralized data store for the indexing, preservation, expiration, and review of numerous types of unstructured data. Companies moving SharePoint data to the EV archive allows eDiscovery management from a centrally managed repository for attorney review and case management.

IT’s expanding role in all areas of business are bringing it face-to-face with new issues in litigation and recovery that were once outside of its purview. As this occurs, it must transition to more effectively manage all forms of electronically stored information for eDiscovery and legal hold. Using an integrated archiving approach such as Enterprise Vault, IT managers can become records managers and even eDiscovery and legal hold process managers.

History shows that the responsibility for IT departments is not decreasing but is rather accelerating at break neck speeds that have companies scrambling for answers. By using products such as Symantec’s Enterprise Vault, IT can continue to meet its tactical objectives of assimilating and centralizing information stores while still effectively responding to the new complexities that today’s eDiscovery and legal hold are imposing across all of their data stores.

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