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5 Crucial data projects to simplify eDiscovery and other legal matters in 2014

Jim McGannIt seems like everyone's talking about unstructured data lately - the cost, the risk, the massive growth - but little is being done to control it, especially from a legal or eDiscovery perspective. 

Many organizations have been too busy playing catch up to get ahead on managing unstructured data. Legal IT specialists have been caught in a horrible cycle of unmanaged data growth and searching this larger data set for eDiscovery.  

With budgets tightening all around to compensate for those rising eDiscovery and storage costs,  legal IT specialists are looking to get ahead on their data by  finding the highest impact projects that will see an immediate ROI. 

While there's no one project that will simplify locating responsive data, there are five crucial data projects not to leave off the schedule in 2014. 

  1. Defensibly remediate abandoned and outdated content: Data centers are complex environments that can easily hide data as it ages beyond its usefulness. Explore data that has not been accessed in more than three years and then defensibly delete this content maintaining an audit log for future reference. Additionally data profiling can find content owned by ex-employees that has been abandoned on the network and purge this content in order to eliminate future liability.
  2. Proactively classify data based on risk:  Getting ahead of the data tsunami and understanding what you have, where it is located, and what may become a liability is a dream of many organizations.  Using data profiling, unstructured user data can be analyzed and classified based on risk and exposure.  For example, spreadsheets owned by the R&D department related to the 'Jones project' can be found and preserved in a legal hold archive.
  3. Audit and secure PII data: Personally Identifiable Information (PII) such as social security and credit card numbers are hidden throughout your network.  This content is a liability and can result in high-profile data breeches if not properly managed.  Search and find user files and email containing PII and migrate this content to an archive, encrypt it, or purge it from the network.  Organizations can then ensure they are safe from hidden PII and determine the best disposition strategy for this content.
  4. Remediate aged data on legacy backup tapes: Every organization has legacy backup tapes generated for disaster recovery purposes.  These tapes contain copies of all user generated files and email for decades. Compliance, legal and regulatory requirements are mandating that content on these tapes be managed as it can be requested when required. Profiling legacy tapes, extracting what is required, and archiving it for future access not only streamlines legal and eDiscovery requests but reduces offsite storage expenses.  
  5. Audit records management policies: A records policy can only be effective if it is properly enforced.  Since a data center is complex and many people are involved in managing the content, auditing the networks to ensure compliance with policy is critical. Without regular audits data that should no longer be available can easily exist, causing challenges with legal strategies.  Regularly audit networks and servers to check for compliance.  If a company has a policy that no PSTs are allowed on the network, it can be a nasty surprise if one is uncovered during discovery.  


There are a number of ways legal IT can approach these projects, but to maximize impact in a smaller time frame, it is important to explain and get input from data center managers and legal teams. Strategically, a number of file-level metadata tools, sometimes referred to unstructured data profiling, exist to make the process of finding and organizing data more efficient. 

Through the file-level information date, owner, location, file type, number of copies and last accessed information can be determined, which will help data center managers classify data and put disposition policies in place. 

The benefits of managing unstructured data include reduced risk, quicker eDiscovery time and regulatory compliance. With finances already tight and data growing rapidly, don't leave these projects off the schedule in 2014.

Jim McGann is vice president of information management company Index Engines. He may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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