Over the last two years, a large number of organisations have failed to produce electronic evidence in a timely manner, resulting in multi-million-pound fines and negative press coverage. With the increasing levels of regulation around e-discovery, organisations must be more proactive about how to archive, retrieve, and produce e-mails and related content in the event of a request from regulatory or government bodies.
When the e-discovery amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in the US took effect last December, there was a widespread feeling of panic among international corporations that their systems would not support the new requirements. This is not surprising, given the impact and cost implications, but it is not solely a US issue. The challenge is global, and organisations in the UK and other countries are equally at risk from failing to provide information in a timely manner.
However, what is troublesome is the lack of activity in meeting e-discovery requirements. One survey revealed that one-third of organisations were unprepared to meet the new requirements. Moreover, the traditional solution to the challenge was to “save and store everything,” which results in a storage and retrieval headache of massive proportions.
The issue is not about storing the e-mails, but, rather, finding and retrieving the e-mails and documents. Many organisations can show authorities the e-mail in the system, but cannot retrieve it. As such, there is a gap between storing and retrieving that many organisations have failed to bridge.
Therefore, the question remains: Why are organisations still ignoring e-discovery regulations? It is also puzzling when the investment in information management technologies at many organisations is increasing due to the volume of data being created, which on average is 40% to 70% per annum.
Some organisations have decided the only way around this problem is to store everything. However, huge e-mail stores can create a storage headache, given the need to manage the stores in a cost-effective way, while ensuring all e-mails are available and easily retrieved. Many organisations archive data to tape, which can result in days spent on searching old tapes for the relevant data, while those that keep it on disk often keep it in high-performance systems that are not cost-effective for long-term archival.
How can organisations keep all the data so it is easy to store, manage, and retrieve to ensure full e-discovery requirements? The solution lies in building into the organisation’s information management and storage infrastructure an intelligent e-mail archiving and e-discovery solution. Storing e-mails and data on a tiered storage infrastructure means that organisations can keep the e-mails and data on the most cost-effective storage platform depending on the value of the data. This is widely known as information life- cycle management (ILM). Yet, the next step that is often overlooked is the need to have an intelligent e-mail archiving solution to facilitate the e-discovery process. In addition, it can also play a role in further reducing storage capacity and costs.
To ensure easy access, retrieval, reporting, and audit trails, e-discovery capabilities should be built into the e-mail archiving system. Being able to quickly search for e-mails by person, subject heading, and also words within the body of the e-mail or attachment means organisations are better able to find relevant e-mails. This level of intelligence in e-mail archiving and e-discovery means that organisations should no longer fear the threat of fines from being unable to produce electronic evidence.
Organisations are slowly waking up to the threat of failure to comply with legislation and regulations related to the retention of electronic documents. In fact, investment in e-discovery tools is expected to rise from US$1.4 billion in 2006 to more than US$4.8 billion by 2011, according to Forrester Research. While amendments to existing regulations and introduction of new regulations will fuel short-term interest in e-discovery, IT organisations should consider a more resilient e-mail archiving and retention management strategy for the long term. The first step is to investigate solutions that can quickly, easily, and cost-effectively enhance e-mail management and e-discovery, which lays the foundations for a more-comprehensive e-mail management strategy.