Service provider takeaway: Storage service providers who want to expand their reach into enterprise content management and information management can use e-discovery budgets as the mechanism to up-sell storage clients.
It's clear that the threat of civil litigation and subsequent electronic data discovery (e-discovery) requests is pushing companies to better manage their data. And while it seems obvious that big companies are subject to litigation involving data, even small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are at risk. In fact, most midsized companies will face some kind of litigation crisis related to electronic data in the coming year. The reality is that being reactive rather than proactive will cost your customers lots of cash. The financial burden of a single litigation will pay for the technology and services to better manage data.
You probably know that there are a number of approaches to proactive information management. But there are two types of tools that are sometimes overlooked in e-discovery preparedness: enterprise content management (ECM) and indexing/classification. By understanding how these tools can aid in e-discovery, you'll have another avenue to services revenue.
Of these two types of tools, ECM provides a richer (though pricier) environment for managing and disposing of data. Indexing and classification tools are better suited for your smaller customers and for unstructured data; they're cheaper than ECM but, like ECM, can reduce the amount of data subject to expensive processing and review during litigation.
ECM systems enable the capture and categorization of information critical to specific business processes -- basically, putting business context around a company's data. ECM vendor Open Text has a partnership with TCDI to deliver an ECM-driven litigation management tool to reduce e-discovery costs.
Where ECM is overkill, indexing systems from vendors like Autonomy or Fast Search & Transfer (FAST) take a soup-to-nuts approach to information management. For example, Autonomy's IDOL platform can index hundreds of data sources, including email archives and Microsoft SharePoint. Once indexed, the IDOL platform can be complemented with investigative and review tools such as Aungate Investigator and Introspect On-Demand for a consolidated system.
In addition to indexing systems like those from Autonomy and FAST, there are lower-cost tools, such as Abrevity, Kazeon and StoredIQ, that take a more focused approach to information management. This group provides a good starting point for reducing the amount of unstructured data that a company has to store. They comb through thousands of files searching for content; the content is reviewed, and then files are categorized and managed according to the categories identified. Brian Tuemmler of information management company Delve Information Group uses Kazeon's IS1200 system to help his customers retain critical business information and dispose of unnecessary information.
One key consideration when guiding your customers toward an information management tool choice: Different products will affect their networks in different ways, so it's critical to test the products in a lab environment. Tests should be based on real-world use and involve complex queries and multiple language support.
Beyond considerations related to product features and capabilities, there's another important factor to consider: whether a vendor has a partnership with an e-discovery consultancy. If the vendor of choice has an e-discovery partnership, your customer should be better protected if/when litigation actually happens. For example, StoredIQ partners with FTI and LECG, which means that StoredIQ can offer a leg up to its customers who face litigation.
About the author
Joshua Konkle is vice president of consultancy DCIGInc.com. He has worked in a variety of end-user roles, including technology training and product management, and has been a director for SNIA's Data Management Forum. Joshua has spoken at archive and electronic data discovery conferences across the country.