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Databases A Top Target For E-Discovery

E-discovery requests that include application databases are on the rise, according to a new survey by IDC. Application databases, such as ERM and CRM systems, ranked first as the most common target for e-discovery collections for 2009, ahead of typical discovery sources such as file shares, e-mail servers, laptops and smart phones. In a 2008 survey, application databases ranked seventh as a discovery target.

Why did application databases leap to the top of the list in a single year? The financial crisis is one reason. "You have regulatory investigations and lawsuits," says Vivian Tero, Program Manager for IDC's Compliance Infrastructure Service. She also notes that many companies are being pulled into suits as third parties, not as litigants, but because they have transactional data relevant to cases.

She also notes that attorneys are becoming more sophisticated about e-discovery and the ways they can leverage different data sources. For instance, lawyers can use e-mails to track discussions of financial impropriety as well as target actual transactions or trades housed in databases. The prominence of application databases as a discovery target is bad news for IT, particularly if these databases become a persistent target rather than a one-time surge spurred by the financial meltdown. IT already struggles with the time and cost associated with collecting and preserving large volumes of unstructured data. Those same actions will require specialized and expensive attention when performed on production databases, whether by DBAs or third-party consultants, or likely a combination of both.

The news isn't great for IT elsewhere in the survey. Both the number of litigation events and the average volume of information collected are on the rise, but e-discovery budgets are flat or falling. Organizations with 100 or more litigation events per year increased from 27 to 46 percent from 2008 to 2009. Meanwhile, those collecting more than 2.5Tbytes of electronic information per event increased from 19 percent of respondents in 2008 to 37 percent in 2009. On the budget front, 36 percent say e-discovery budgets are flat, while 42 percent say budgets are being cut.

All of these data points highlight the importance of a comprehensive e-discovery strategy for organizations that anticipate even a handful of discovery events in the coming year. One place to start is coordinating your IT and legal departments. The survey had 115 respondents from organizations with $500 million or more in annual revenue. The survey was conducted by IDC and sponsored by FTI Technology, an e-discovery software and services company.