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E-Discovery Needs To Move To The Cloud, Survey Finds

Respondents to a recent unscientific survey on e-discovery indicated that they were particularly interested in adding e-discovery support for cloud applications and social media in their organizations, but that they did not think their organizations were prepared to perform e-discovery in the cloud. In addition, they seemed more interested in monitoring potential legal challenges from social media than they did in controlling their employees’ use of social media in the first place. The survey was performed by Clearwell Systems (which was recently purchased by Symantec) in conjunction with the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) analyst firm.

Only 25% of respondents considered themselves prepared to handle e-discovery requests inside the cloud, with 30% indicating that they reported cloud applications "in scope" for e-discovery in 2010 and 60% anticipating the discovery of cloud-based applications in 2011. Thirty-seven percent have no defined policy, while 18% have no agreement with their cloud provider. This is a problem because, when user organizations first set up agreements with cloud providers, they are more interested in putting the information into the cloud and don’t think so much about how to retrieve it, says Katey Wood, an analyst in information management for ESG. Similarly, cloud vendors encourage users to put more data in the cloud but don’t have an incentive to give the data back, with the result that user organizations don’t have custody and control of the data but are still considered responsible for it, she says. The data can be difficult to work with, Wood adds, noting that one can download a Gmail mailbox but conversational threads are not maintained.

Similarly, while 27% of respondents considered social media in scope for e-discovery in 2010, 58% said they considered it in scope for 2011, with 79% showing interest in Facebook, 64% showing interest in Twitter and 55% showing interest in LinkedIn. This result surprised Wood because, she says, not all companies are using social media and because some companies didn’t appear to have any sort of policy around it.

E-discovery is also becoming much more prevalent and common in user organizations, with 8% of survey respondents identifying themselves as the "e-discovery director," a burgeoning role, says Hilary McQuaide, marketing communications manager for the Mountain View, Calif.-based company.

The survey consisted of 20 questions developed by ESG. Clearwell collected responses at events such as computer trade shows, while ESG performed analysis on the results. However, because the respondent population was not randomly selected, there is a limit to the reliability of the test results. For example, 93% of respondents indicated that they planned to bring e-discovery in-house rather than outsource the functionality, but such a response might be more likely from people attending a trade show at which they were perhaps researching e-discovery software, acknowledges Wood. She notes that it can also be difficult to get e-discovery users to respond to a survey because it’s such a nascent industry.

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