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Demystifying Data Forensics

Storage managers struggling to please industry regulators have another wolf approaching the door -- corporate lawyers. Increased litigation and the deadline for amendments to the U.S. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) set to go into effect December 1, are forcing companies to take a look at how they store data that could wind up in court.

By the end of this year, storage managers must be sure they can prove, among other things, that data required for any judicial purpose comes from a "good-faith operation of an electronic information system." They must take steps to ensure that data that may be needed in court -- emails, database entries, whatever -- is preserved without change from the moment that litigation is anticipated. (See Lawyers Urge Doc Management, Retention Rules Set to Change, and Storage Goes to Law School.)

The problem has several aspects. First, IT managers need to be sure they know where their data is in case it is required in court. "I'm sure some people are running around thinking of the December 1 date as a catastrophic problem," says Lori Wagner, a partner in the Minneapolis firm of Redgrave Daley Ragan & Wagner, which specializes in helping companies handle their data legally. "A lot of organizations don't really know what they have. They have to make some time to see that records management has an important connection with the legal department."

There's no magic bullet, Wagner warns. Whatever tools storage managers can deploy for finding their data and obtaining the necessary information about that data will be helpful to ensure smooth legal discovery. But no single product or group of products will work for everyone. "The worst thing is to spend big on something and not find the time for planning."

There are plenty of document management, data classification and search, and archiving products on the market to help out. But if the lawyers come calling for something specific, it may be time to consider products designed specifically for data forensics.

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