Article

How e-discovery and email archiving tools address litigation in SMBs

Alan Radding

SMBs are now increasingly turning to a variety of tools to bring pieces of the e-discovery function in-house. According to research firm Gartner Inc.'s "Marketscope for E-Discovery," Dec.

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2008, more companies "are looking to in-source at least part of the e-discovery function, especially records management, identification, preservation and collection of electronic files."

Gartner cited the reason for implementing e-discovery in house is that, "properly implemented archiving and discovery software can yield significant cost savings, both for the IT department and on the time and money spent by lawyers inside and outside the company." Gartner also cited that the payback can be achieved within three to six months.

For IT, e-discovery took on major importance at the end of 2007 when the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were revised to make electronically stored information (ESI) as important as paper documents in the civil litigation process. Suddenly, the massive amounts of email and electronic documents sitting on disk and tape, often for a decade or more, became fair game during litigation.

IT now needed to know what data was stored and how to find it fast. E-discovery brings advanced, high-performance search capabilities to the task. Failure to deliver all relevant ESI could blow a case and/or result in huge fines. IT executives might even be called into court to testify about how the data was stored, searched and protected.

E-discovery is just one piece of the larger litigation data management issue. The E-Discovery Reference Model (EDRM), divides the e-discovery process into six areas:

  • Information management
  • Identification
  • Preservation/collection
  • Process/review/analysis
  • Production
  • Presentation

EDRM also identifies the functions associated with each area. IT tends to focus on the first three areas, with search (e-discovery) falling into the identification area. Lawyers and litigation experts generally handle the rest.

E-discovery and archiving tools

For SMBs, archiving, which falls into EDRM's information management area, actually may be the tool to get first. "We wanted email archiving. We got e-discovery as a bonus when we bought Mimosa Systems Inc.," said Michael Lawrence, CIO of the city of Lexena, Kan.

The small city with 450 employees has only been involved in litigation twice, and the first time it had no automated tools. Instead, two employees spent three weeks trying to recover ancient Microsoft email messages from tape. With the Mimosa email archive and e-discovery in place, IT now can find any message fast. "E-discovery is like search on steroids. You can search on anything across the entire message store," said Lawrence.

Webcor Builders, a California contractor, also came to e-discovery through archiving. "We initially were faced with how to manage all our Microsoft Exchange data," said Gregg Davis, senior vice president/CIO. Webcor turned to Symantec Corp.'s Enterprise Vault to manage its sprawling Exchange data stores and very quickly discovered that it also had a tool that could search the actual content of email attachments.

At Webcor, IT gets involved in the early stages of litigation. It manages the data and searches for relevant documents through Enterprise Vault. When litigation arises, "we can put a legal hold on all the relevant documents with just the push of a button," said Davis.

Even after eliminating service providers from its latest e-discovery software report, Gartner identifies dozens of e-discovery software vendors, including EMC Corp., Symantec, Mimosa Systems Inc., CommVault Systems Inc., CA Inc., Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co., Kazeon Systems Inc. and Recommind Inc.

ESG analyst Brian Babineau adds managed service providers like Iron Mountain Inc. and SunGard Inc. to the list. SMBs may prefer Software as a Service (SaaS) e-discovery vendors like Discovery Mining (acquired by Interwoven Inc.), CaseCentral or earlyCase.

According to Babineau, the range and variation in pricing is too wide for generalization; some tools are priced per gigabyte and some offer a subscription based on the number of mailboxes or the size of the data store.

For example, Mimosa's NearPoint pricing is via one-time license payments, and starts at $40/per mailbox. Additional options are $16 (eDiscovery, Content Monitoring), $8 (disaster recovery), and $6 (PST, Custodian Collector) per mailbox. An enterprise bundle can be purchased for $64/per mailbox.

SMBs often turn over litigation IT needs to their law firms and outside support providers like doeLegal. However, companies can achieve considerable savings when they handle some litigation functions in-house. One, reported by Gartner, found that in-house e-discovery capabilities saved the organization $800,000 on one case alone.

Should an SMB invest in e-discovery tools? "It is not a question of business size but of how much data you have and how frequently you need to search it," said Babineau. Businesses with high volumes of data or frequent search requests can benefit from in-house e-discovery tools.

"When it comes to litigation, nobody is immune," said Davis. At Webcor, "the need for e-discovery continues to grow. We are expanding our effort to SharePoint," he added. Between litigation, compliance, audits and internal initiatives, SMBs will find no shortage of uses for e-discovery tools.

About this author: Alan Radding is a frequent contributor to SearchSMBStorage.com.

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