The struggle to stay above the rising tide of information is a constant battle for organizations. Not only are the costs and logistics associated with data storage more troubling than ever, but so are the potential legal consequences. Indeed, the news headlines are constantly filled with horror stories of jury verdicts, court judgments and unreasonable settlements involving organizations that failed to effectively address their data stockpiles.
While there are no quick or easy solutions to these problems, an ever increasing method for effectively dealing with these issues is through an organizational strategy referred to as defensible deletion. A defensible deletion strategy could refer to many items. But at its core, defensible deletion is a comprehensive approach that companies implement to reduce the storage costs and legal risks associated with the retention of electronically stored information (ESI). Organizations that have done so have been successful in avoiding court sanctions while at the same time eliminating ESI that has little or no business value.
The first step to implementing a defensible deletion strategy is for organizations to ensure that they have a top-down plan for addressing data retention. This typically requires that their information governance principals – legal and IT – are cooperating with each other. These departments must also work jointly with records managers and business units to decide what data must be kept and for what length of time. All such stakeholders in information retention must be engaged and collaborate if the organization is to create a workable defensible deletion strategy.
Cooperation between legal and IT naturally leads the organization to establish records retention policies, which carry out the key players’ decisions on data preservation. Such policies should address the particular needs of an organization while balancing them against litigation requirements. Not only will that enable a company to reduce its costs by decreasing data proliferation, it will minimize a company’s litigation risks by allowing it to limit the amount of potentially relevant information available for current and follow-on litigation.
In like manner, legal should work with IT to develop a process for how the organization will address document preservation during litigation. This will likely involve the designation of officials who are responsible for issuing a timely and comprehensive litigation hold to custodians and data sources. This will ultimately help an organization avoid the mistakes that often plague document management during litigation.
The Role of Technology in Defensible Deletion
In the digital age, an essential aspect of a defensible deletion strategy is technology. Indeed, without innovations such as archiving software and automated legal hold acknowledgements, it will be difficult for an organization to achieve its defensible deletion objectives.
On the information management side of defensible deletion, archiving software can help enforce organization retention policies and thereby reduce data volume and related storage costs. This can be accomplished with classification tools, which intelligently analyze and tag data content as it is ingested into the archive. By so doing, organizations may retain information that is significant or that otherwise must be kept for business, legal or regulatory purposes – and nothing else.
An archiving solution can also reduce costs through efficient data storage. By expiring data in accordance with organization retention policies and by using single instance storage to eliminate ESI duplicates, archiving software frees up space on company servers for the retention of other materials and ultimately leads to decreased storage costs. Moreover, it also lessens litigation risks as it removes data available for future litigation.
On the eDiscovery side of defensible deletion, an eDiscovery platform with the latest in legal hold technology is often essential for enabling a workable litigation hold process. Effective platforms enable automated legal hold acknowledgements on various custodians across multiple cases. This allows organizations to confidently place data on hold through a single user action and eliminates concerns that ESI may slip through the proverbial cracks of manual hold practices.
Organizations are experiencing every day the costly mistakes of delaying implementation of a defensible deletion program. This trend can be reversed through a common sense defensible deletion strategy which, when powered by effective, enabling technologies, can help organizations decrease the costs and risks associated with the information explosion.