Federal Schmederal

The FRCP deadline looms, but here's why storage professionals will (and ought to) shrug it off

November 29, 2006

3 Min Read
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It would be tough to invent a marketing vehicle as compelling as the pending December 1 "deadline" for activation of new U.S. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP). Like the issues of Y2K and regulatory compliance in bygone years, the FRCP theme has been played with flourish by suppliers hoping for runoff from end-of-year budget flushes.

To review: As of December 1, the FRCP, which are devised by the U.S. Supreme Court, will include new wording about how electronic data should be stored and presented as evidence in U.S. courts. (See FRCP Tip Sheet and Retention Rules Set to Change.) Companies that can't produce email evidence or other documents in response to civil suits, or that can't defend their data storage practices and policies, could be weakened in court and liable to enormous fines.

Parties that stand to gain in this matter have been blasting away at users for months about the need to prepare the way for the judge. Leading the pack are lawyers, consultants, and suppliers of data classification and search, email, and archiving products and services. The issue has also given rise to terms such as "e-discovery" and "data forensics," for which new wares have been generated as well. (See Storage Goes to Law School, Iron Mountain Intros Solution, Index Addresses FRCP, Index Unveils Solution, Bocada Extends Solution, Discovering E-Discovery, and Demystifying Data Forensics.)

But, as my Byte and Switch colleagues and I have repeatedly noted, December 1 will not change anything for storage managers. IT pros have been focused on compliance issues for several years, and the FRCP tweaks reinforce mandates that are already in place, particularly in California, New York, and other highly regulated states. There's nothing new about the fact IT is under tremendous pressure to organize huge volumes of data and make it accessible.

Consider email, for instance. Since so much electronic evidence, not just for court use but for compliance purposes, turns up in email form, there's been a drive underway for months to help IT better manage it. December 1 will likely come and go without note for those already involved in email management projects. (See Energizing Exchange and Orlando, Observed.)The overall effort toward compliance in general is probably behind the IT public's apparent lack of urgency about the new FRCP. The forest, it seems, is more important to folk than the trees. In a recent B&S poll on the matter, just about one-third of respondents reported being concerned about the FRCP changes, while most said they weren't top of mind. At the same time, nearly half (42 percent) said they feel they understand the FRCP issues.

In the end, the "FRCP deadline" is only the latest of vendor salvos aimed at the same underlying concerns. (See Scrutinize This.) IT pros everywhere are focused on getting their storage acts together. Their fears and worries about that are many-faceted, entirely valid, and urgent no matter what deadline approaches.

— Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

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