E-discovery in the cloud? Not so easy

Don't wait till the lawyers come calling to figure out if you can find your cloud-based data.

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More telling, perhaps, Skamser's research indicates that a high percentage of the client base of these providers are "renegade business units" of large corporations seeking to do an end-run around what they perceive as unresponsive internal IT organizations.

This could be a recipe for disaster. When a large corporation is sued and presented with an e-discovery request, the general counsel would likely go to the IT department and ask for help. The general counsel may not ask a particular business unit manager, and even if they do, the manager won't know how to comply and probably has no e-discovery provisions in his contract with the cloud vendor, Skamser explains.

Develop a comprehensive plan

The most important thing is for a corporation to have a comprehensive information governance and discovery plan that covers all sources of data, including the cloud, says Murphy.

The plan needs to provide not only for how to conduct e-discovery on data stored in the cloud, but also how to review that data alongside data residing elsewhere. "People will store information in all sorts of places," he notes. "You need to apply the same discipline on all data sources."

It's not too late to prepare for e-discovery on cloud-based data, says Murphy. "Best practices are just beginning to emerge, and the good news is that companies have the opportunity to get ahead of the curve," he wrote in a recent report.

"The key is to treat cloud-based sources of data like any other data source," Murphy concludes. "Include it in data maps, have a plan for collecting and preserving it, know how to manage the chain of custody, and understand when to dispose of the data so that it poses no e-discovery risk."

Frequent Computerworld contributor Tam Harbert is a Washington, D.C.-based writer specializing in technology, business and public policy.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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