Autonomy Dives Into Desktop Hold

E-discovery specialist looks to lock down laptop data

December 4, 2007

3 Min Read
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On the one-year anniversary of the U.S. government's overhauled Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP), software vendor Autonomy claims to have added a crucial piece to the e-discovery jigsaw.

The vendor's Zantaz archiving division has unveiled a solution designed to lock down laptop data that may be critical in a legal dispute. Specifically, the vendor is targeting the issue of "legal hold," which occurs when documents are deemed of legal importance and must not be destroyed.

Laptops have already been identified as a major e-discovery problem for firms, particularly when staff named in the litigation are traveling.

"The idea of a legal hold is that you want to be able to implement it immediately," says Nicole Egan, Autonomy's chief marketing officer, adding that it can take days to manually track down laptops and search their hard drives for relevant data.

Autonomy's "Desktop Legal Hold" solution, is essentially a piece of client software which runs on laptops and desktops. In the event of a legal dispute, IT managers can use the software to search laptop files for specific keywords that are related to the case.Once the software finds one of these files it is marked as subject to a legal hold. When the laptop connects to a firm's central server, the relevant file is then uploaded to an archive.

The solution can even target deleted files, according to Egan. "You can still create an audit trail, and find the file, even if it has been deleted," she says, explaining that the solution searches the "empty space" on laptop hard drives where deleted data is held.

The exec told Byte and Switch that Autonomy does not have any early adopters for Desktop Legal Hold, which will be available next week.

Autonomy was also unable to cite a typical list price for the product, saying that this depends on a number of criteria, including the number of employees using the solution, the number of files supported, and the number of languages that need to be searched.

At least one legal expert nonetheless feels that the solution could be a key element of an effective e-discovery policy."A laptop can be an important source of evidence, there are times when it can be a very big deal," say Tom Allman, former general counsel at BASF and co-chair of Lawyers for Civil Justice, which advocated for the FRCP amendments. "Let's say you have a case where there are employees selling trade secrets or source code, often-times the only evidence is on their laptop."

Forrester Analyst Barry Murphy agrees that laptops are often the Achilles' heel of firms' e-discovery strategies. "Increasingly, users are demanding the ability to take things offline and work on their laptop hard drive -- companies are worried about that."

The analyst explains that Autonomy is not the only vendor to target this issue, highlighting, in particular, Guidance Software's EnCase solution, which takes what is known as a "forensic image" from a laptop. "They take a full disk image," explains Murphy, adding that Autonomy is instead focused on specific pieces of data.

"With Autonomy you can put specific items on the desktop on hold and manage them very specifically," he says, explaining that this presents less of a storage burden than taking a full disk image.

Guidance nonetheless has the edge over desktop newcomer Autonomy in one key area, according to Murphy. "Guidance can point to certain cases where courts have said that this is a forensically sound method of collecting data from desktops," he says. "Autonomy does not have that to point to."Another vendor cranking up its efforts around desktop e-discovery is electronics records management vendor AXS-One, which will be enhancing its AXS-Link for File Systems product later this week. "We can identify a document's records classification," says Richard Hoffman, the vendor's vice president of R&D. "I can say that this file belongs to a specific file system."

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  • Autonomy Corp.

  • Forrester Research Inc.

  • Guidance Software Inc.

  • Zantaz Inc.

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