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Sloppy e-discovery can cost you millions

New federal guidelines could result in big problems for organizations lacking strong e-mail and electronic records-retention policies

By Joanne Cummings, Network World
May 21, 2007 12:03 AM ET

Network World - Your company has been hit by a lawsuit. Do you know the whereabouts of all its electronically stored information?

Lawsuits are a fact of life for organizations today. Recent surveys show that the average U.S. company faces 305 suits at any one time; that number jumps to 556 for companies with $1 billion or more in revenue.

With each lawsuit comes the obligation for discovery -- production of evidence for presentation to the other side in a legal dispute. In the past, this evidence consisted primarily of paper records, such as contracts, bills of sale, printed correspondence and so on. However, with the rise of the New Data Center, 95% of all business communications now are created and stored electronically. That places the focus on e-discovery: finding and managing electronically stored information (ESI).

New Data Center Interactive: Take this quiz and see how you rate on Network World’s e-Discovery Readiness Scale

"It makes sense," says Gregg Davis, CIO at Webcor Builders, a construction firm in San Mateo, Calif. "Before five years ago, we never allowed change orders or changes in price or scope to happen through e-mail; everything was signed and faxed and kept on paper. But now, everything we do is e-mail. It's our primary tool for business documentation. Now 90% of everything we do here is done electronically."

That puts a heavy burden on IT, says Browning Marean, partner at DLA Piper, a global law firm. "If it's digital and it's relevant, it's discoverable. So it all has to be found, preserved and examined," he says. "And IT plays a key role in that because it is the keeper of the information -- it knows where and how information is stored, and IT is the one that has to find and present it."

Gregg Davis

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