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Federal Schmederal

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.)

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