In the legal system, when the attorneys for both sides prepare for the litigation by exchanging each side’s information, the process is called discovery. The exchanging of discoverable digital information, or “electronically stored information” (ESI), introduced the term “e-discovery”.
All of this digital information is stored on a large variety of different devices including databases, network servers, computer systems, disks, drives, computers and handheld devices to name a few. Considering the massive amount of information collected and stored by companies today, the location and organization of all this data can a daunting task. However, when all of this information is collected and organized into a data map it becomes much easier to have an idea of what data is available and where to find it.
E-discovery data map
One of the most effective ways to organize all of a company’s data and make it all available for e-discovery is a data map. An e-discovery data map organizes all of the company’s IT infrastructure, making all the information immediately accessible. The data map is a catalog of all of the organization’s records, files, programs and other digital data.
Creating an e-discovery data map is, by no means, an easy task. However, the following 5 tips will make it easier to create an effective collection of the digital data, in preparation for litigation.
Determine what data is available
Often the biggest challenge in e-discovery is finding out how much data exists, within a company, and where it is located. This may seem like an unusual comment. However, departments within the company may use SharePoint servers, where users will copy data to shared drives on networked file systems without realizing they have copied them. Also, administrators may not know what systems are being used for what data.
Find out who has the data
Another important task is to find out who owns, or is responsible for, the different pieces of data. In most cases, administrators don’t always know who is responsible for pieces of data or how often they are used. Uncovering this information is important to the initial organization of the e-discovery data mapping process.
Know what to look for
A legal complaint will give the lawyers the key facts about the case, supplying them with an idea of what data they need to produce. After finding out what data needs to be produced, it is then just a matter of finding the relevant material within the company.
Make it understandable
When all of the data is discovered, it needs to be compiled, analyzed and presented. The main goal is to make sure the e-discovery data map is easy to understand by non-technical readers. This means that technical terms and concepts will need to be translated.
Maintain the data map
After going through the lengthy process of creating an e-discovery data map, it is important to keep it up to date. Changes within a company happen on a regular basis, systems are upgraded, new applications are installed and old hardware is replaced. Even though keeping the data map up to date can be challenging, it is a lot simpler and less time consuming than starting all over with the process.
Litigation can be a difficult process for everyone involved, especially for those responsible for the timely data preservation and production in addition to their normal duties. Planning for e-discovery in advance is a way to reduce the pressures.