Don’t delete that email – it might be evidence

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Today most of the information that is stored is electronic, and anyone involved in a lawsuit must by law disclose any relevant  electronic documents. The process is generally known as e-discovery and there can be severe penalties for individuals and organizations that fail to comply with the various e-discovery regulations.

The process of e-discovery can be onerous, particularly when applied to email as email is often treated somewhat erratically. Often the origins and ownership of emails are unclear, whether an email is retained or deleted might depend on the whims of the user rather than the policies of the organization, and there might me multiple copies of each document.

In such an environment any e-discovery process is going to be highly complex and costly, possibly consuming a great deal of employee time. It is also possible that at least a few important documents will fail to be discovered which can weaken legal cases and result in injustices. This could also lead to accusations of concealment, a charge which is considered to be very serious in law. Furthermore, it is also possible that documents that are legally privileged could be erroneously disclosed.

In addition to litigation there are other requirements concerning email. There is a complex matrix of rules and regulations that stipulate which kind of electronic information should be retained and deleted and the time periods that such data must be retained.

In the UK the Companies Act obliges organizations to retain full records of accounting; the Data Protection Act requires organizations to retain personal data; and the Freedom of Information Act requires that public sector records are retained. There are also regulations regarding information on all financial transactions under the Financial Services and Markets Act. Very similar regulations apply in the US and throughout Europe.

A further problem is complying with disclosure timetables. Courts will stipulate the time by which e-discovery should be completed, and with a fragmented email infrastructure complying with this timetable can become impossible.

One answer to these problems is an email archiving system that provides online data storage. In addition to online file storage the system should provide security, auditing, accessibility and should facilitate rapid search and e-discovery. Mimecast’s approach to this is the deployment of cloud based archiving solutions which provides a very efficient and cost effective solution. According to Mimecast, by 2014 50% of large enterprises will insist that employees no longer store email in personal archives.

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