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Home  > Electronically Stored Information Creates Challenges for Midsize IT
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Electronically Stored Information Creates Challenges for Midsize IT

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

No business is small enough to avoid facing an e-discovery request. Thanks in part to big data, the amount of electronically stored information has skyrocketed. This has challenged IT departments — especially in small to midsize businesses (SMBs) — to understand how to better collect, review and store the data used for e-discovery, as well as how to reduce the costs involved.

Prepared for Potential Lawsuits

Even though it is large enterprise operations that make headlines for lawsuits, SMBs are also at risk of being sued. This requires taking a proactive approach to e-discovery. However, midsize businesses often have smaller IT departments and fewer sources to handle these e-discovery procedures, and that can create a serious burden if there is a need to produce thousands of documents within a specific time frame for legal reasons.

Double-Digit Increases of Data

According to Baseline Magazine, the amount of stored electronic data has increased by double-digit percentages annually, and this overflow of data only promises to get larger. As authors Ed Lee and Scott Giordano explain, much of this data is copied into a "'forensically sound copy' of electronically stored information (ESI) through the use of bit stream imaging of hard drives," which meets the "standard for admissibility into court."

However, the authors argue, this is probably not the most efficient way to create good forensic copies of ESI, and IT professionals may want to change their approach to retaining files for e-discovery needs.

Hybrid Approach

The integrity of the data is the most important consideration for e-discovery. In many situations, a hybrid approach to copying data would work best. For example, Lee and Giordano point out that the vast majority of civil suits only require copies that "faithfully capture the files," while the more precise bit stream imaging would be useful for cases involving tampered or damaged evidence.

Understanding the Basics of E-discovery

E-discovery is a partnership between IT staff and the company's lawyers. The two departments can begin by creating an e-discovery policy that outlines what files need to be retained and for how long. They can also work together to determine the right e-discovery tools for the company's size and potential needs. This means understanding what type of data will be stored for e-discovery and how to handle the vast amount of redundant and unnecessary email and other files. Finally, while it is important to be proactive, IT departments also have to be reactive by being able to respond with the right data in case of litigation.

At a time when big data and smarter computing is being used to improve business operations and consumer relations, the downside is the burden of too much electronically stored information for e-discovery. The continuing challenge for IT departments will be developing cost-effective ways to collect and store the necessary data without the task becoming overwhelming.

This article was written by Sue Poremba.

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