“Information management policies are not a dark or novel art.”
So wrote the court in Phillip M. Adams & Associates LLC v. Dell Inc., a case in which the defendant had argued that “its email servers are not designed for archival purposes, and employees are instructed to locally preserve any emails of long term value.”
That claim didn’t pass muster with the court, which denied the defendant’s safe harbor claim and imposed sanctions, ruling that “the culpability in this case appears at this time to be founded in [the defendant’s] questionable information management practices.”
Court rulings like this one have caused many organizations to take a hard look at their information management practices. What they’re learning, often enough, is that the typically reactive approach to discovery no longer makes sense today. With information being generated at an unprecedented pace, what’s needed instead is a proactive approach to information management.
As organizations large and small struggle to respond to internal and external requests for information, they’re coming face to face with a fundamental truth: namely, backups are not designed for e-discovery.
Simply put, computer backups are snapshots of a computer system at a particular point in time, so that the system can be recovered back to this point in the event of a failure. The entire backup process is optimized around the idea of a computer system image at a singular point in time.
Such a process is hardly equal to the demands of e-discovery, which is often about finding specific information within a particular time period.
Nevertheless, many organizations still rely on backups for information retrieval – and pay the price in time and money, as an increasing number of court cases demonstrate.
For example, in Toussie v. County of Suffolk, the county argued that searching backups was overly burdensome. The court then narrowed the search request to 35 terms, but even that still required an estimated 470 tape backup restorations at a cost of between $400,000 and $900,000.
Symantec believes organizations would do better by approaching the situation with an integrated approach: backup is for recovery, while archiving is for e-discovery.
“With the issues that continuously arise in electronic discovery, the courts are now very interested in information management practices,” says Sean Regan, E-Discovery Product Marketing Manager at Symantec. “That’s why we tell customers that they need to be proactive about managing their information. And they need to manage all their electronic information, not just email.”
Regan says too many companies still think they can avoid e-discovery problems by simply storing everything.
“The fact of the matter is that companies have misused backup,” he says. “They’ve deleted nothing, and consequently they’re buying way too much storage. But by being proactive about information management and your IT policies, you can establish a process that allows you to delete confidently.”
Active archiving is key to that confidence, according to Regan. Active archiving is a way of centrally managing the storage, retention, and preservation of information while ensuring “live” (or active) access to any item. Active archives are indexed so that information can be rapidly retrieved for business, regulatory, or e-discovery purposes.
Active archiving works by moving information (out of email and other systems) into a central repository – the archive. Once in the archive, an item can be automatically controlled according to a policy. This is important because, once information is under automated control, basic retention and deletion policies can be implemented that ensure a repeatable process without disrupting the end user.
That, in turn, leads to a primary benefit of active archiving: Active archiving systems can dramatically reduce storage requirements because they identify duplication or redundancy and eliminate it.
For example, by storing just one copy of a file or message, regardless of the number of times it occurs or where it is stored, an organization can significantly lower the long-term total cost of ownership by reducing the archive size.
Consider an email with a 3MB attachment that is received by 100 people, saved to disk 50 times, and uploaded 10 times. An active archiving system would store that attachment just once, and then simply record that the same file is being used the remaining 159 times.
Active archiving also helps with early case assessments. Organizations that are able to assess each case early in its lifecycle are better equipped to make informed decisions about case strategy and can prepare more informed litigation budgets. E-Discovery costs can be reduced by giving inside counsel access to the archive with search and review capabilities. Because archived information has already been collected and indexed, an organization can conduct an early case assessment without the expense and disruption of manual data collection and third-party processing.
Most organizations do not have functional policies for the retention and expiration of their electronically stored information. As a result, e-discovery often involves a disruptive search through any location where data may be stored across the organization. Without automated deletion of content pursuant to policy, excessive information is available for discovery, increasing risk and cost to the organization. Given the current volume of electronic information stored by most organizations, a process for the collection and eventual expiration of information is critical for both routine storage management and e-discovery.
Symantec Enterprise Vault enables companies to store, manage, and discover unstructured information across the enterprise. With unstructured information consuming a large percentage of corporate storage, Enterprise Vault archives information from multiple locations using powerful storage optimization, classification, and retention technologies. Enterprise Vault will automatically capture, categorize, index and enforce retention policies and secure unstructured information, enabling enterprises to reduce storage costs and simplify management.
Symantec’s Sean Regan has compiled a checklist for Legal and IT teams that can help you determine whether the benefits of active archiving outweigh the costs and risks of the status quo.
- What is the average cost to collect and review information?
- On average, how long does it take to collect that information?
- Have you looked at ways to reduce the volume of information sent to third-party vendors or outside counsel?
- Have you looked at ways to do early case assessments with no IT dependencies?
- Have you eliminated the use of PST files?
- Do you have tools in place to implement legal holds without duplicating data?
- Have you looked into deduplication with archiving to reduce backup and storage costs?