Occasionally clients will request assistance in locating electronically stored information (ESI) on their network. Many of those requests stem from the need to provide data essential for impending legal purposes such as insurance disputes and lawsuits. Examples of common ESI are emails, documents, audio/video files, faxes, etc.
Retrieving ESI can be an arduous task for businesses and their IT departments. There are companies that specialize in e-discovery; however, their services are not cheap. Whether you should employ such a company would largely depend on the magnitude of the claim and/or the complexity of the findings process. Key factors to consider include:
- Is this an internal dispute?
- Is there possible litigation with an employee, vendor or customer?
- Has the law been broken?
- Is this a compliance breach?
- Is this fraud-related?
- Will you be filing an insurance claim?
In other instances, however, companies can usually perform data search and extraction internally without the added expense of hiring a data recovery firm. Email accounts for at least 90 percent of corporate communication making it an especially valuable source of evidence in civil and criminal litigation. Most hosted email platforms have integrated tools that can simplify the search process.
Say, for instance, you need to pull all email correspondence between members of your team with a vendor within a defined timeframe. Search functions in both O365 and Intermedia will allow a global search of all users’ archived emails thus eliminating the need to have each person search their mailboxes. This is particularly helpful if the data you are searching for has been archived or is in a former employee’s email files.
How MIS Can Help
MIS can assist clients with properly setting up an email search and provide instruction on placing emails on administrative or legal hold. Placing an email on legal hold will prevent that data from being purged down the road even if an automated process is set to purge after a specified time period. It’s important to note that MIS will provide instruction or guidance, however, the client is responsible for executing the search.
Once a client has found the necessary ESI, MIS can perform the correct legal procedures to ensure the data is protected and admissible in a court of law. This involves downloading and storing the data on secured media – usually an external hard drive that requires a passcode to access. It also includes encrypting the data and establishing chain-of-custody documentation so there is a record of every touchpoint during the entire e-discovery process.
To further maintain the integrity of the data, MIS will run a hash, which is simply a mathematical algorithm that creates a number representing the data on the hard drive. This is particularly helpful in verifying whether it has been altered in any way. Should someone question whether data has been improperly handled, a second hash should render the same number revealing whether or not someone has tampered with the data.
Once data has been properly downloaded onto external media, MIS will release the hard drive to the client who must sign for it. At this point, the client must keep the hard drive under lock and key to preserve the data and ensure it is admissible in a court of law.
If you need to recover ESI, please contact your account manager for assistance.