Unstructured Data and the Achilles’ Heel of e-discovery

Let’s say you’re running IT for a legal team. Whether your employer is a law firm or corporate counsel, you’re likely storing massive amounts of data. Much of this is no doubt unstructured data: documents, emails, social media exchanges, instant messages and more. Some of that data is pertinent to pending cases and subject to e-discovery regulations, but most of it probably is not. But how do you know which data is valuable and which isn’t? Simply put, your storage system has no mechanism for extracting intelligence from the data it’s holding. In the legal industry,  “We didn’t realize what we had” is not an acceptable excuse for dumping regulated material. As the IT pro, you’re essentially tasked with storing everything – indefinitely – because you just don’t know what might be needed and when.

This scenario is equally true for another highly regulated, data-intensive industry: financial services. Banks, hedge funds and other firms have made huge investments and bought the biggest, fastest storage they could afford. Yet, they’re realizing that as they use this storage, they are increasing their potential liability in ways that aren’t always clear. To comply with Sarbanes-Oxley and other regulations regarding sensitive privacy information, financial institutions not only need to store data, but they also need to protect it. The big, fast storage investments they’ve made store the data but leave much to be desired in the way of managing, controlling and ensuring the data is retained according to governance policies or regulatory mandates. IT pros in these financial service firms cannot easily determine what they can throw out unless they bring on additional software, build all-in data centers or hire data scientists.

Storage overload in the legal and financial services fields shows that the race to the bottom with storage prices has led many organizations to embrace big data and storage. However, many of these (and other) organizations make such investments with little regard for the consequences of storing everything, only to realize too late how difficult it is to find and analyze the most significant files or documents amid the massive number they’ve retained.

Ignorance won’t protect you from litigation or compliance breaches. Nor will it help your IT team or your end users harness the data-fueled intelligence that could make the  difference in the outcome of a legal proceeding or the return on an investment decision. For e-discovery to work without crushing the IT department, users must be able to identify content, visualize the results, and make it all work within the confines of corporate governance policies. Beyond those core capabilities, regulated organizations should use the true intelligence that resides within their stored data – particularly the unstructured portions – where messages, documents, wikis and other communications can reveal valuable insights about the business.

How is your organization balancing the cost, complexity, risk, and opportunity brought on by the rapid growth of unstructured data? Follow DataGravity on LinkedIn to learn more.

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Steve Akers

Steve Akers is an executive and technologist currently focused on identifying the problems and solutions facing businesses in the world of "Big Data." Steve shares his knowledge and insights as a member of DataGravity's board of advisors.