Most companies go through the process of litigation at some point. Regardless of whether you run a small, medium-sized business, or a huge enterprise, these legal-based scenarios take place across all industries and require that you have access and the means to identify and retrieve various types of data.
This is where utilizing e-Discovery comes into play.
Whether you are currently facing a legal issue or you simply want to prepare in advance by incorporating this type of information management and data accessibility solution, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself (and other staff members in your organization) with most tangible e-Discovery processes, challenges, and benefits these solutions can bring about.
What is e-Discovery and How it Works
Electronic Discovery, or e-Discovery, accounts for electronic-based solutions that help you identify, collect, retrieve and/or produce Electronically Stored Information (ESI). These actions are typically required in cases of lawsuits or investigations. ESI includes the following types of items: databases, emails, documents,voicemail, presentations, audio/video files, social media information, web sites, SMS or any other type of business-related messaging systems, etc.
Incorporating all these necessary processes and technologies can be a convoluted procedure, which is why e-Discovery and email archiving solutions have been evolving so much over the last decade or so. This is not only due to sheer volume of e-data that is being produced, managed and stored. But also because electronic data is much more dynamic and complex than legacy (hardcopy) files and documents. This complexity arises from features like metadata that often include more granular pieces of information (dates, author, recipient information, file properties, etc).
This is why making sure that all your data is properly and safely preserved, but also easily accessible, is critical for organizations of all shapes, sizes, and industries, especially if you want to be on the safe side and mitigate any information-related weaknesses that your company may have in case of potential legal issues. Should a litigation scenario come, you don’t want your data to be inaccessible. Instead, this type of relevant information needs to be easily tracked, identified, indexed and placed under a legal hold within a database, which means that it cannot be destroyed or modified from that point on.
This is where this data and documents get analyzed, compartmentalized according to relevancy, and stored in a secure environment where it is made accessible to legal bodies.
Typical Challenges That e-Discovery Solves
Businesses that do not use eDiscovery or email archiving solutions are highly likely to face the following challenges.
The Time-consuming Process of Data Tracking and Retrieval
Even if your local servers are capable of storing all of your emails, documents and other relevant data, the management-related tasks regarding that blob of information are quite complicated and tend to be wasteful in terms of time and resource consumption. Locating specific documents or files within your business’ backup systems can be a long and arduous process that often takes time away from your other mission-critical tasks.
Data/Email Safety and Integrity
Organizations that do not have a solid e-Discovery strategy in place are exposed (on a daily basis) to high levels of risk in terms of retrieving corrupted documents, infected files or wrong data. Also, privacy violation is a huge issue, especially if you work with clients and handle their sensitive information. It is no secret that privacy is detrimental to the success of companies that seek the growth of their client-base.
Inability to Meet Legal Deadlines
Most e-Discovery ESI requests involve very strict deadlines in terms of data pinpointing and retrieval. These requests are loaded with various (and often vague) compliance regulations, and the companies that fail to meet these deadlines and/or comply with appropriate regulations are highly likely to suffer dire consequences in terms of both penalties and business reputation.
What to Look For in an e-Discovery Software Solution
As we already pointed out, any e-Discovery task or procedure is quite complicated and time consuming (often even too expensive) for businesses that haven’t implemented any litigation support software that helps them automate these processes.
Luckily, there is a wide variety of quality e-Discovery and email archiving solutions available on the market. Here are some of the critical features to look for when selecting one:
Simultaneous Multiple-Location Keyword Search
Most of these systems provide you with an opportunity to search multiple databases – including email messages, document portals, cloud storage, instant messaging platforms and services – and do that via using a single keyword search. They allow you to quickly and easily locate relevant data that could be critical for legal issues. It is also extremely handy to be capable of exporting your results to a repository of sorts and then be able to fetch the desired export report without the need for exporting all search results. This enables you to narrow down the range of data you wish to access and analyze.
Search Results Deduplication
De-duplication of exported results enables you to export a single copy of an email message, for example, that is being fetched to your repository. This is very handy when the same item occurs multiple times in your database. This helps you to further narrow down the number of data pieces that require reviewing.
Content Search Permission Filtering
The search permissions filtering feature allows you to search only through a desired subset of data, sites, and/or mailboxes within your organization. It also enables you to search only the databases and/or content that meets specific criteria relevant for that particular search. For instance, you are able to use filters that allow you to comb through email messages (regardless of how old these emails may be) that come from only one specific sender/location.
Retrieve Unindexed Data
Pieces of information that are not indexed often have documents or files that are encrypted or password protected, or have simply been sent as large email attachments and are therefore not properly indexed within your archives. The reviewing of unindexed files could also be required during legal investigations, which is why companies should be able to locate them through e-Discovery services that include these items in their exported search results.
Smart Data Parsing (Recursive, if Possible)
Last, but definitely not least, is the eDiscovery software’s data parsing capability. Data parsing involves reviewing, analyzing and reading the files and documents in their original format (PDF, native, or TIFF), which can be a rather demanding task, especially in terms of reading the files in their native format.
Being capable of diverse native production is critical as it often involves tracking down and analyzing the following type of data:
- Deeply nested subdirectories
- Corrupted data
- Files that contain other files of the same or different type
- The files that have been password protected
- The data containing extensions that have been tampered with
- The data that has been infected with malware, etc
One of the most basic jobs of an eDiscovery tool is to properly extract the content, context and metadata from any type of data it encounters. This extraction process allows these fetched files to be searched, accessed, viewed and examined by the user. Of course, the anomalies and errors are always possible and are present almost all the time, and these software solutions aren’t able to recognize and contextualize each and every one of those errors. However, it should be capable of letting the user know that certain pieces of data are not processable.
Also, this data parsing procedure should be recursive. Recursive data parsing involves the handling of various nested data container files that also contain numerous other files, including the files of the same format.
Litigation processes and procedures are often overlooked and diminished in relevance, which can result in expensive, sometimes even disastrous consequences. Opting for potent eDiscovery or email archiving solutions makes sure your teams are able to access and retrieve any type of data that pertains to a specific project, case, client, topic or staff member. The organizations that use this kind of data management automation do not have to worry about the aforementioned repercussions and are able to devote their time to more mission-critical tasks and processes.