Defining Best E-Discovery Efforts

Frank Ohlhorst

When it comes to compliance, the regulations often dictate that an organization must demonstrate 'Best Efforts' for archiving data.

However, the term 'Best Efforts' is vague at best and can mean different things to different people. For regulators, 'Best Efforts' has its roots in the ability to retrieve and audit data. For CTOs, it means a backup and archiving platform. For CFOs, it means the lowest cost solution that meets the minimum requirements.

Actually defining 'Best Efforts' in a meaningful fashion is usually the task that IT managers responsible for compliance technology find themselves assigned.

Luckily, those IT managers can dissect the term 'Best Efforts' to figure out an applicable definition by keeping one other technology term in mind-'e-Discovery.' The requirements behind e-Discovery make it easy to see that 'Best Efforts' must go beyond merely storing relevant information. The e-Discovery process dictates that data must be archived securely in a protected fashion that supports auditing - the key word here being 'auditing.'

So, for all intents and purposes, 'Best Efforts' means much more than just archiving data, it also means the ability to retrieve the data in a relevant fashion-and that is where things start to get complicated.

Retrieving the data, especially if it is years old, often requires access to the applications that can report on the data. Old e-mail clients, accounting systems, and other relevant applications must be maintained, as well as the platforms that support those applications. That is a major challenge when one considers that audit windows can range from a few months to 20 years or more - depending on the type of data and the regulations that apply.

So what does all of this mean? Simply put, IT managers need to plan for the retrieval of data, not just the archiving-luckily, technologies such as virtualization make the process a little easier today. When creating an archive, IT managers can do a physical to virtual conversion and store all of the needed elements as a virtual machine, which can be accessed using a hypervisor at a later date.

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