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Many global organizations flub electronic-records requests

More companies are tackling how to best set up their electronic records to be able to respond to any legal requests related to "electronic discovery" to quickly find internal documents for court purposes, but this "e-discovery" process is still a struggle, a survey published today indicates.

Exchange 2013 Enhanced Email Retention, Archiving, Legal Hold and eDiscovery

According to a ReRez study, 500 companies and government agencies were asked about how they prepared for e-discovery, and only 7% said they had no plans at all on how to do this, an improvement compared with the 14% that had said this the year before. Thirty-four percent reported they are now fully operational in terms of e-discovery. But the global organizations, which got on average 17 legal requests related to electronically-stored information in the past year, admitted they were either late or even completely unsuccessful in responding to them 31% of the time -- up from 26% the year before.

Overall, 75% admitted they are less than "extremely responsive" when it comes to e-discovery. The survey was based on answers from managers hailing from the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom or Germany. They admitted their e-discovery missteps had numerous consequences for their organizations.

Twenty-four percent said they suffered "sanctions by courts," 32% said failure "raised our profile as a potential litigation target," 34% cited they received "fines," 35% said it led to a "compromised legal position," 39% said there was reputation damage and "embarrassment." Forty-three percent also admitted e-discovery missteps hampered the ability to make decisions in a timely way. The survey was sponsored by Symantec and conducted by reRez.

These issues around e-discovery typically originate with how archiving is done for data retention, and it's estimated that 38% of data really need not be kept in backup, says Trevor Daughney, director of information intelligence group at Symantec. "It's not needed," he says, noting that retaining far more than is really required for e-discovery contributes to increased costs related to analysis and review, especially in attorney fees.

But the survey points out, over half the organizations responding to the survey indicated that they store data in backup based on the legal demand they hear internally that data be held for infinite retention. However, preferred practices for e-discovery call for adopting a "defensive deletion mindset," according to Symantec. This means determining what information may be the most important for legal purposes through classification of information in files and e-mail when archiving it.

According to the survey, the majority of e-discovery requests for electronically stored information originate with public-information requests, government inquiries, local or international regulatory compliance, litigation, and internal compliance initiatives.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: MessmerE. E-mail: [email protected]

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