Let’s imagine the following situation. The “ZZ” company’s secretary is writing an email to one of their business partners. It must have been the 120th email he’d read or written that day. The process is the same as yesterday and a day before: write content, attach a file or two, press “send” – round and round it goes. Meanwhile in the neighboring office a CEO is searching her inbox for an information that was emailed to her a few months ago. Only trouble is she can’t recall who sent it to her. Finding it might take her many hours.
This company has 28 employees, all of which use emails and other ways of online communication, real time or not. This means they have hoarded a pile of nearly one million emails for one year only. This is not an exaggeration. According to The Radicati research conducted in 2015, the number of business emails sent and received per user per day was 122.
Apparently a magic wand is what this company’s members need to thread their way through their own data, if only for their own purposes. Just what would happen if they received an E-discovery request?
What’s an E-discovery and how does it affect me?
The golden goal of every single market is finally achieved – industries and ventures have outgrown single countries and states and fused into one global market. When all the world’s a stage, rules of the game change. Competitiveness is higher than ever and continues to rise. Where there’s competition, there are also more and more kinds of misconduct, leading to numerous lawsuits and litigation cases. Maybe you are not the one who’s breaking the rules. But even if it was some other party, your work may have to be put under the magnifier as well. The digital magnifier for the digital data, that is. And if you fail to comply to the prescribed standards of data retention – well, then you’re definitely breaking the rules.
That means lawyers, digital forensic experts and other investigators will be there in no time, hunting through your data, performing an electronic discovery, commonly abbreviated as E-discovery. The data better be in compliant file types. Even when the identification phase is done – which means extricating all the locations and channels where the information could possibly be found – the work is far from finished. Files can get corrupted or lost. (In 2013, LPL Financial paid a fine of $ 9 million because they lost track of almost 30 million emails they had sent and received during a 4 year period.) Your ideal solution would have to be a powerful collector which could help you manage your existing data, but also automate the process, to spare you the trouble of supervising and controlling it manually each and every day.
It is also of crucial importance to preserve the metadata along with the data – metadata is the third dimension of a document that didn’t exist once upon a time, when we faxed or mailed hard-copy documents. Metadata enables us to interpret and classify our information, providing necessary context.
How to achieve regulatory compliance?
If you don’t have a good and stable email archiving solution when the day comes to prove your innocence or another party’s wrongdoing in a litigation case, you will have to pull huge amounts of money out of your pockets, because the authorities have made it mandatory for you to keep complete records of your business correspondence. And not just to retrieve them, but to present them in specified file formats, easily searchable, unchanged and in due course, because investigators are not willing to spend the rest of their lives trying to locate a needle in a haystack of someone’s entire communication history. It is estimated that digging up a single old email costs about $13.000 for the companies that don’t have a comprehensive email archive system!
You should try to prevent the “I should have” state of mind and think proactively. Instead of learning from your own mistakes, it is better to learn from others’. It’s not just a potential lawsuit that could drain great amounts money out of your company’s account. Even a simple audit or revision, announced or not, would be enough to catch you flatfooted. It’s not just needed to retain your data and retain it properly – it is obligatory.
Online backup vs. on-site email archiving system
Online backup means your intellectual property (because that’s what it is) will be continuously uploaded and stored on distant servers. But servers just collect. They don’t organize or classify your data in any way. Imagine an enthusiastic philatelist who buys tons of stamps just to cram them in the attic. He would rather have them sorted out and neatly arranged, so he could easily manage them, making more room for new ones as well. What’s the use of a stamp one can’t find? Maybe there are even duplicates in that mess. But he will never know. Might as well burn them. Your digital attic should, however, have the ability to process whatever you put there. Every piece of information has to be indexed in order to be searchable and findable within seconds. That means structuring the unstructured data, managing your haystack so that every single grass would have its place and definition, based on firmly established criteria. Then you could easily find a needle in it too, if need be. The unstructured data also means interactions on social media or via instant messaging services. Those interactions could also be captured, organized and retained, if you want them to.
One more asset of a comprehensive email archive system is security and reliability. Powerful though they are, servers are not almighty. If an external one crushed, it would be an epic catastrophe. But if you have it at your place, you wouldn’t have to worry. After all, privacy is not privacy if you haven’t got the keys.
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