From Backroom to Courtroom

Storage administrators gain status as they team up to meet the new rules of e-discovery.

In the nine months since Ed Rolison became a storage analyst at a leading global bank in England, he hasnt exactly become the most recognizable person in the office. Rolison, a contractor from IT services provider Getronics NV, rarely talks with colleagues about support of the firms SAN environment.

Its still mostly a background role, he says.

But all that could change as the bank installs new EMC Centera storage systems and an enterprise vault in order to make it easier for up to 40,000 employees to access e-mail and other records from its archiving systems for legal purposes.

As access to archived records is simplified for bank employees over the next few months, Rolison will likely have a more discernible role in the organization even if he doesnt suddenly become the big man on campus. More and more people are realizing the importance of managing, moving and maintaining multiple terabytes of data, he says.

Rolison doesnt expect to achieve celebrity status, but his situation is representative of how storage administrators are beginning to gain stature in their organizations. Thats because storage professionals are increasingly being called upon to work more closely with corporate legal departments. Theyre also assisting with electronic discovery efforts to help satisfy regulatory requirements for determining where information resides within a business and how its being managed.

For storage professionals who have this type of expertise, the boom in e-discovery work is creating new roles and opportunities, says Frank Wu, managing director at Protiviti Inc., a consultancy in Menlo Park, Calif.

Many storage administrators at publicly held U.S. companies already have to deal with obligations imposed by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, since they often support corporate officers who are held accountable for the security and access rights to financial data. More recently, storage professionals have become more involved in dealing with stiffer e-discovery rules. The upshot is that some corporate legal departments have already begun working more closely with storage administrators to determine where critical information may reside and how to access it.

As a result, storage administrators are rising up the stack in a lot of companies, says Andy Cohen, associate general counsel at EMC Corp. in Hopkinton, Mass.

The Stakes Get Higher

But this emergence from near anonymity is a double-edged sword for some storage professionals, notes Richard Scannell, senior vice president of sales and marketing at GlassHouse Technologies Inc., an IT infrastructure consultancy in Framingham, Mass. Scannell, who earlier in his career oversaw a 160-person IT unit at Motorola Inc., says the increased visibility for storage administrators also means added pressure.

One guy was telling me that hes one mistake away from losing his job, says Scannell. Amateur hour [for e-discovery] is over.

The e-discovery surge is also leading more storage professionals to seek training to familiarize themselves with new regulatory requirements and to further themselves professionally.

Weve seen a tidal wave of activity in this space, says Cohen, who is also vice president of compliance solutions at EMC. For instance, the vendor runs a workshop that brings together IT, legal and compliance professionals to instruct them about various facets of e-discovery requirements. Were seeing tons of activity where IT [workers] want to understand what the process is and a forum to let legal [professionals] know what their challenges are, Cohen adds.

The e-discovery boom has created an intersection between corporate IT, legal and compliance departments, say observers. The overlap between these groups is creating additional job opportunities for storage experts.

Were seeing certain instances where legal departments are looking for IT professionals to work in those departments and help them get their arms around electronically stored information, says Protivitis Wu. In other cases, storage professionals with e-discovery skills are being recruited by corporate IT departments, he says. In both cases, recruiting is strong at companies in highly litigious or heavily regulated markets, such as the utilities, pharmaceutical and financial services industries, says Wu.

Recruiters Take Note

Laura Maslowski has had limited experience with e-discovery as a systems administrator at USIS Commercial Services, a provider of employee drug- and background-screening services in Tulsa, Okla. Nevertheless, her experience with Network Appliance Inc. products has generated a few recruiting calls from a headhunter in Arkansas over the past several months.

A 17-year IT veteran, Maslowski hasnt seen giant leaps in salary over the past few years, but she says that depends on who writes the [annual performance] review. Maslowski says she would like to earn a storage certification to see what opportunities could open up.

Rolison, who has taken 10 EMC courses over the past year, says he has recently received quite a lot of offers from recruiters looking for SAN experts to work for London financial services firms. But the high cost of city living has kept him in Coventry, 120 miles northwest. The theory, says Rolison, is that if you can work [in IT] for a high-end bank for a few years, youre well set for the rest of your career.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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