On top of the everyday IT challenges that organizations have to face – such as storage management, data security, and maximum system performance – dealing with legal requirements around email is yet another issue that must be addressed.
An important factor associated with these strict regulations around email retention is eDiscovery (or eDisclosure). But what exactly is eDiscovery?
In simple terms, eDiscovery is the discovery of electronic records, using the discovery process after a legal action is initiated. Here’s how it applies to email retention.
eDiscovery: The Basics
Information that is stored electronically can be any type of document that isn’t paper – it is intangible in form, volume, transience, and persistence, and can be involved in any case of litigation.
All discoverable materials can have fines applied to them, and email is no exception. Therefore, emails are just as valuable as physical paper documents, such as contracts and letters.
All parties involved in the case must produce the relevant documents before it can proceed to Court. Email is probably the most common way that documents are stored, so when there’s a data request in court, email discovery comes into play. With a quick email discovery capability, you can avoid hefty fines. This is why email archiving is becoming more and more necessary for employee email management.
For the document to count as evidence, it has to either describe or explain a particular issue. In an organisation – especially a large one – the amount of emails to be sifted through can be overwhelming, which is why an email archiving system with the ability to apply filters such as “only show me emails containing documents” can make all the difference.
As long as your digital information is stored in a way that lets you examine it efficiently and effectively, then you should be prepared for an unexpected eDiscovery request. Be wary of deadlines, since these are usually very rigid, so it’s vital to make sure archived emails can be quickly retrieved.
If your organisation is subject to litigation, then you must have the ability to respond to data requests quickly – meaning you can find and produce the information requested of you without too much effort. You should store corporate data in a central repository which is readily accessible, because you will have to provide an amount of electronic data in a legally defined timeframe.
In the case of a regulatory compliance breach, both individuals and companies can be persecuted. In fact, Australian law dictates that penalties can be up to $330,000 for companies, or up to $60,000 and 5 years imprisonment for individuals (which includes the board of directors).
Email Archiving: The Solution
If you were asked to produce all your emails from 2001 between the VP of Marketing and the Product Manager, how would you achieve this? Do you know how long it would take you to recover these emails?
It will be an arduous task without an email archiving system, because your data is not easily found, much less retrieved.
Because the volume of email keeps growing, many organisations are finding it difficult to keep up. Many organisations still use PST files (which are cluttered), or back up tapes (which do not comply with eDiscovery). This isn’t ideal as your data isn’t as accessible as it should be if it’s stored offline.
While legally you aren’t required to store your data in a professional archiving solution, it will significantly help you when you need it. Theoretically, you could use traditional paper filing systems, as long as the data is stored somewhere. However, this is not practical (or eco-friendly).
To make life easier for your organisation, email archiving in the cloud should be a key consideration to prepare for eDiscovery. Another option is to have an on-premises data centre, but accessibility is significantly limited in this case. It will also cost a significant amount of up-front capital expenditure to implement and maintain.
With cloud-based email archiving:
- You have anywhere access. All you need is an internet connection and a web browser.
- You can access your data in seconds, in one place, with an unlimited amount of storage.
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