4 dangerous myths about data disposal, debunked

Many "gotchas" surround data disposal. Here's advice from two experts on how to avoid some big traps.

According to IDC, in 2008 the total amount of information created exceeded the total amount of usable space on every hard drive, tape, CD, DVD and solid state memory device ever created. At the same time, there's been an explosion of legal obligations for data, largely driven by expanded e-discovery requirements and the revisions to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Confusion about these legal obligations and a lack of communication between legal and IT have led companies down a path of "save everything." Indeed, even with data volumes increasing exponentially, 70 percent of companies still don't have a practice for disposing of information at the end of its life. As a result, data management and litigation costs are now totaling hundreds of millions and cost control is of critical importance.

There is a tremendous opportunity for companies to defensibly dispose of data and dramatically lower their data storage costs. In this article, we'll expose some of the myths that inhibit data disposal and challenge the organization to rethink how they deal with this issue.

Myth 1: We need to keep everything.

Fact: There is no legal obligation to keep all information.

Often times, IT is under the impression that they need to keep everything because "legal needs it." In fact, there is no legal obligation to keep every piece of information. Companies do have specific obligations to keep data that is relevant to their lawsuits and to keep specific records for various government agencies (data subject to lawsuits falls under legal hold, and records required by regulators are prescribed on retention schedules).

But because many companies manage these processes through spreadsheets and e-mails, they lack the ability to effectively communicate to IT what data should be preserved. Companies that implement rigorous, integrated processes for legal holds and retention which link legal, IT, and the business can manage data more efficiently and break the cycle of over-retaining data.

Myth 2: Storage is cheap.

Fact: Over-retention is costly.

The real cost of storing information is far greater than the cost of a gigabyte. Keeping everything not only increases data management costs, it also increases e-discovery costs, as legal has to sift through a greater volume of data for each matter.

The total cost of a single employee's data in a single lawsuit can be as high as $200,000. The real cost of storing information to the corporation is far greater than the cost of a gigabyte; it includes the cost of managing many generations and types of data, the cost of complexity in IT, and the cost of discovery which all reduce the company's bottom line.

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