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The Question of Tape

Companies used to plead hardship in an attempt to avoid searching tape for discovery motions, but that excuse is swiftly falling by the wayside.

Accomplishing e-discovery within tight timeframes and across large data volumes is challenging for corporations. Manual discovery procedures are still common even though litigation discovery and review requires tremendous amounts of man-hours. Companies must locate applicable information, extract the relevant data for production, apply litigation holds, and assign security parameters. It takes serious time and manpower to manually search these large and growing stores of information, and to search them across the enterprise. Manual discovery is risky too, since failing to discover adequate information within the court-ordered timeframe can lead to costly court sanctions and weak positions during litigation. These factors are rendering manual discovery a moot point at many corporations. These companies are turning to e-discovery as a way to automatically classify, index and extract data across enterprise data stores. That is all to the good, believe me. However, data collection from online data sources is a good deal easier to do than data collection from tape-based sources. A good deal of potentially relevant data is contained on those backup tapes, and getting that data can be costly in terms of time and storage resources.

Companies used to plead hardship in an attempt to avoid searching tape for discovery motions, but that excuse is swiftly falling by the wayside. New rules for compliance in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures tighten up pre-trial discovery location requirements and it is a good bet that opposing counsel will insist that the defendant include backup tapes in discovery. There is some recourse as the plaintiff is not allowed to obviously wield e-discovery as a weapon, and cannot demand that the company search every backup tape for every date. But they do have a wide-ranging set of rights in asking for extensive e-discovery on tapes that might reasonably house data relevant to the court case.

So without some provision for automating direct tape searches, IT must mount tape and restore the data using its original backup program (which IT hopes it still has). Only then is the content searchable by manual or software means. Given this set of challenges, being able to classify and extract relevant data without first having to restore it represents a significant benefit to companies facing e-discovery demands for backup and archival tape. This approach also represents a significant savings in terms of time and storage capacity, as potentially thousands of tapes need not be restored before executing e-discovery on them. When searching for e-discovery collection software, be certain to ask how it handles tapes. The better able it is to search without previous restoration, the better choice it is.

Christine Taylor, an analyst with The Taneja Group, has more than a decade of experience in covering the IT and communications industries. She has written extensively on the role of technology in e-discovery, compliance and governance, and information management. View Full Bio
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