FRCP Tip Sheet

More compliance woes loom as enterprises, IT come to grips with new rules

November 7, 2006

5 Min Read
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Revisions to the U.S. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are set to go into effect December 1. (See Retention Rules Set to Change and Storage Goes to Law School.) And while the repercussions will be felt chiefly by corporate attorneys, the issues raised will draw IT managers inexorably into the loop. The result is that more storage managers are becoming experts in the field of "e-discovery."

The new rules themselves comprise 60 pages of legalese, but the gist is that corporate lawyers must not only produce electronic documents in the event of litigation, but produce them as part of the pretrial process. If documents can't be produced, a judge can slam a company with sizeable penalties.

Many firms could be facing six-figure fines, according to sources, because they don't know about the new rules and are unprepared to follow them. Results of a poll conducted by Deloitte Financial Advisory Services LLP, released today, show that nearly 70 percent of an audience of roughly 300 to 400 CFOs, tax and finance directors, attorneys, and controllers on a recent Webcast reported they need "more training on their company's records retention policies and procedures." (See Deloitte Polls IT.)

How can storage managers be sure they're ready when legal comes calling? Here's a checklist gathered from recent interviews and research.

  • Get control of email: Email management is the Achilles heel of many corporations when it comes to e-discovery. (See Email Looms as IT Threat and Stop That Email!.) Getting it into an archive that can be searched will be well worth the effort.

    "Email management is a big deal," said Jim Brady, email administrator at LA's Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in a presentation at the SNW conference in Orlando last week. Using Symantec's Enterprise Vault, Brady's archived email for 4,500 users, including one who stubbornly refused to delete a 35-Gbyte stash of over 2 million emails. By moving to an enterprise database, consolidating Exchange servers, and setting up a migration of email data from tape to disk archives, Brady figures he's ready for anything -- and he's saved $850,000 a year in the process.There is a growing army of email archiving vendors ready to tell you how they can help you get prepared for the FRCP. These include CA, EMC, HP, IBM, Mimosa, Symantec, and Zantaz, to name just a few.

    In addition, services are sprouting to help do the job for small- and medium-sized firms. Among these is AdvisorMail from LiveOffice, which provides managed archiving for email and messages. According to product manager Mary Cilva, customers can get highly indexed archives with the ability to perform complex queries within a couple of days.

  • Get control over end-user activity (corollary to email management): Do you know which end users in your organization are doing things like downloading music? Can you alert the right folk to stop email from being deleted once litigation is pending? If you can't answer yes to these questions, you're not ready for the new rules. The ability to report on user activity is absolutely essential to ensuring that the right information will be saved for corporate reporting.

  • Establish an archive for documents: Some storage managers up to now have mistaken data backup for archiving, but they're not the same. (See Backup & Archive: Not Synonymous.) Setting up disk-based archives of essential corporate documents, archives that can be searched quickly, will be key to being litigation-ready.

  • Prepare to find needles in haystacks: Setting up archives is important, but so is the ability to index what you have and search through it to find an item that's legally relevant. There is a growing roster of tools designed for e-discovery, which gather metadata across various systems and sort it to establish audit trails of usage. Some products work with firewalls and other security products to find patterns of use and to determine whether suspicious trends can be identified. There also are companies that specialize in making electronic evidence bulletproof for court. (See Demystifying Data Forensics.)

  • Get with your firm's records managers: Records managers are part of a specialized elite, trained in finding out what constitutes an important business record. Sometimes it's not what you think. A bunch of email and documents can comprise a record, or simply one entry in a database. At last week's SNW conference, members of AIIM - The Enterprise Content Management Association presented information on how they're working with the SNIA to forge better links between records managers and IT. If you don't know who the AIIM member is in your organization, find out and reach out.

  • Seek outside help if you need it: If you are in a business where legal penalties could bring down the house, the cost of hiring outsiders to organize your records could be worth it. There's no end of help out there -- the list grows bigger every day. Document management services from the likes of Xerox and Xiotech are on offer, along with a slew of others. (See Iron Mountain Intros Solution, Storage Gets on Record, and Getting Records Management Right.)

  • Look into legal software: A growing roster of companies makes software that can help corporate attorneys manage the electronic information they obtain from IT. Some products, such as those from CaseCentral, feature links to specific IT systems. In this camp are Applied Discovery, Kroll Ontrack, LexisNexis, and Zantaz.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

  • CA Inc. (NYSE: CA)

  • Deloitte & Touche USA LLP

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Kroll Ontrack Inc.

  • LexisNexis

  • Mimosa Systems Inc.

  • Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq: SYMC)

  • Xerox Corp. (NYSE: XRX)

  • Xiotech Corp.

  • Zantaz Inc.

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