A recent survey sponsored by Metalogix Software indicates that fully half of respondents have received a legal discovery request within the past five years. If presented with such a request, will your IT department be able to find and provide all the requested information in a timely manner?

You can help yourself out by being prepared. Have well-documented retention policies in place for email and other company documents: Don’t keep what you don’t need to keep, according to whichever regulations apply to your organization. And for what you must keep, for either legal or business reasons, it’s a great idea to have a proper archive in place—one that can be effectively searched when an e-discovery request comes through. This buyer’s guide and the product table should help you assess the features you need in an archiving product for your Microsoft Exchange Server environment to be ready for e-discovery requests. Although there are many cloud-based services for archiving, this guide focuses only on software products.

PSTs and Other Problems
Exchange Server 2010 has introduced the personal archive feature, which is basically intended to replace PST files. It lets users decide what to archive versus what to delete. But for most legal purposes, this sort of archiving clearly won’t be sufficient, as pointed out by Frank Mitchell, the product director for Metalogix Software. “People abuse email. People delete things, lose email. People create PSTs, which to us is underground archiving,” Mitchell said. In other words, do you really trust your end users when legal issues are on the line?

Having some way of corralling PST data is essential because those files, too, are most likely subject to any e-discovery request—although they aren’t readily searchable or even discoverable through Exchange itself. Most Exchange archiving products these days, including all of the products in the accompanying product table, have some sort of PST migration or management features that can get PST data into the archive. As Mitchell said, “We’re trying to unwind that process by trying to get that data back and preserved and protected.” When the PST data is part of the archive, it’s searchable just like the rest of the archive data.

In addition to the PST problem, the archive might help with other potential problems. For instance, the reporting features of some archives are available with compliance-specific templates for things such as HIPAA and SOX. If they don’t have pre-made templates, the product might give you the ability to create your own custom reports, but keep in mind that means more work on your end.

The ability to establish legal holds on specific archive data is a feature that’s become standard. However, if you’re likely to be the target of many discovery requests, you’ll want advanced hold capabilities, such as the ability to create multiple, overlapping holds. In the interest of not holding things beyond the legal requirement, you can also find archives that let you expire data from the archive according to policies you configure.

The Search
Storing the data, of course, is only half the problem. You need to find what you need when you need it. And if you do get an e-discovery request, there’s a good chance it won’t be limited to email data—you might need to search across multiple sources, such as network file shares and SharePoint document libraries. Many of the Exchange archiving vendors offer other products for archiving such data separately from Exchange data, as well as offering products or add-ons aimed specifically at e-discovery that will federate search across these multiple sources. So, even if an email archive is all you’re looking for right now, it’s worthwhile to investigate the company’s other offerings in case you find you need to expand later on.

Another bonus e-discovery tools can offer is a lessening of the load on the IT department. Some tools let you delegate search functions outside the IT department, which is something many companies are looking for according to Marta Farensbach, product manager for Sherpa Software. IT departments “are inundated with requests from legal, and if they can empower their legal department to do their own searches, they’re all for it,” Farensbach said.

Cost Now, Savings Later
You’ve probably heard horror stories about how much money companies have spent on e-discovery. It’s sometimes less expensive just to settle the case rather than go through the hassle and cost of the discovery process. However, if you invest now in a full-featured archiving product, you’re sure to be in a better position to answer any e-discovery requests that come your way—and save your company money in the long run.

View the buyer's guide chart here.

Corrections to this Article:
  • The following are corrections to the information on the product table for Red Gate Software's Exchange Server Archiver, provided by the vendor:

    Is the storage licensing included in the product cost? yes

    Offline storage option (e.g. tape, DVD): None

    Does the product archive by: Pre-defined filters: yes

    Does the product archive based on Exchange journaling or another method: MAPI (journaling optional)

    What criteria can the product search on?
    Date range: yes
    User/group: yes
    Subject: yes
    Sender: yes
    Customizable rules: yes
    Deleted items: yes

    Compliance features:
    Litigation holds: yes

    Additional products or add-ons the company offers that work with this product for e-discovery: PST discover and import tool