• United States
by Anne Skamarock

Accessing buried electronic evidence

Feb 18, 20033 mins
Data CenterLegal

* Could you easily access old back-up data?

Everyday, we open the paper to find headlines about scandals, patent infringement suits and regulatory or federal investigations involving large corporations. Corporate lawyers are being kept busier than ever with litigation or investigations, initiated by either a subpoena or a discovery order. More often than not, the subpoena or a discovery order requires restoring old user files and associated e-mail that could be up to five years old.

I can see the IT readers of this column shifting nervously in their chairs.  Bringing back data, usually from back-up tapes, that is five years old is not an easy task. Think about your own environment.  Has there been a change in back-up software in the past five years? What about mergers and/or acquisitions with companies using different back-up technology? Heaven forbid that the data has been lost, purposely or not (jail-time is not a good proposition). Could the back-up software you are using today restore data from tapes made five (or more) years ago? Do you even maintain old tape drives that can read the tapes?

The need for electronic evidence, usually consisting of e-mail, attachments and associated metadata, as well as user data and its associated metadata (also called Enterprise User Information) has kept a small company, RenewData, very busy recently.  For companies in a bind, RenewData has been providing the service of extracting this electronic evidence from backup tapes, without recreating the native environment, or the environment in which the tapes were created.  RenewData says its service has saved clients millions in fines and legal fees.

Up to this point, RenewData has been working with customers in a reactive mode providing electronic evidence and expert witness services, rather than a proactive mode.  In the process of extracting data from backup tapes to find the required data, it became obvious to RenewData that customers were paying for extraction of all data and then, in a sense, throwing the extracted data away rather than creating some form of repository where the information could be easily re-accessed to either find more “smoking guns” or to be used in other electronic evidence searches.

With this realization, RenewData created software to augment its Extraction Engine that would save the extracted data to a repository.  Its ActiveVault Enterprise software can consolidate both active and archived EUI data that is processed through its extraction engine. Of course, with e-mails and attachments being sent to multiple users, the size of this vault would become unwieldy quickly if it were not for its ability to dynamically deduplicate the data as it moves through the Extraction Engine.  What this technology does is only send unique metadata and original content to the repository, significantly reducing storage requirements.

With all EUI data accessible and consolidated in a repository powered by an Oracle 9i database, General Councils have the ability to assess their legal position and exposure prior to receiving a subpoena or discovery order. This ability to quickly assess the corporation’s position, either guilt or innocence, saves time and money in litigation and settlement costs.