Jim McGann, vice president of information discovery, Index Engines (www.indexengines.com), says:

In today’s litigious society it’s more important than ever to have a sound and defensible data retention and collection strategy. New regulations, changes in market expectations and advancements in technology make it wise to review legacy data identification and collection strategies. Old technology that was once state of the art or “tried and true” may no longer be so.

Below are four key items that should be considered when defining a new, defensible process. They are:

Consider all data sources – the first choice when faced with a data discovery request is to look at your current network data. This data is typically more readily available than other sources. However many other sources of email and files exist on corporate networks, sources that may be more defensible and even more cost effective to collect from. For example, you can collect emails from an exchange server that you thought were long gone. Recovering deleted email from the “dumpster” in Exchange can shortcut more labor intensive collection efforts. Of the three sources (desktops, online networks and backup tapes) the most untamperable source is the email residing in offsite storage, typically on backup tapes. This collection source has been overlooked because it was historically difficult and expensive to collect from legacy backup tapes.

Become proactive with legal requirements – more outside counsel are advising enterprise clients to proactively manage legacy data in order to get ahead of the curve when it comes to data retention and identification. Understanding from legal what legacy data should be kept and placed on litigation hold, and what can be purged, is the first step in a proactive strategy. These legal requirements will allow you to put a policy in place to save specific content, certain custodians and intellectual property so that it is identifiable and ready for on demand discovery.

Understand technology limitations – when culling data it is important to understand any limitations that may exist with the technology platform. How are duplicates defined? Is the metadata modified? Are all the words in a document incorporated in a search? Restrictions in document search solutions will impact the quality of your discovery. Only use tools that index all the content, and don’t change any of the metadata. Some of the older search solutions compromise the indexing process, and this will come to hurt you in the end.

Become a data discovery expert – keep up to date on new technology. If you have been working with tools, or vendors, for many years and have not spent the time to learn how new technology can support more comprehensive, defensible and even lower cost collection efforts, you should. It is often easy to fall into a comfortable process that is predictable. However, as new technology comes on the market, it tends to improve and strengthen the discovery process. Taking the time to understand technology trends allows you to stay one step ahead of the game and create a current defensible collection process.

A defensible data retention and collection process is a focal point for any data that is presented in the courts. Quality, defensible data is critical to the success of your organization’s litigation. Staying ahead of the game and working with your colleagues to proactively create a defensible process is critical to success now, and even more so in the future.