Electronic Discovery (eDiscovery) is the process of finding and collecting electronically stored information (or ESI) – typically for lawsuits, investigation, or legal purposes.

eDiscovery Definition

Electronic Discovery (eDiscovery) is the process of finding and collecting electronically stored information (or ESI) – typically for lawsuits, investigation, or legal purposes.

The discovery process is the opening phase for litigation proceedings, where parties involved are required to provide all information and data that’s relevant to the case. Unfortunately, gathering this information is not as easy as it sounds. Historically, eDiscovery involved the use of paper documents, presenting physical evidence, and interviewing witnesses.

However, most data is now electronically stored information (ESI), living it various computers, systems, and environments. ESI’s non-persistent, intangible nature has created new discovery challenges – as locating this data is no longer a physical process. A widely recognized industry-term, eDiscovery refers to the virtual discovery process of ESI.

What is eDiscovery?

eDiscovery is the legal process of finding relevant ESI needed for legal, regulatory, and compliance purposes. eDiscovery extends to both the physical data, as well as the “raw data” and “metadata” associated with both structured and unstructured data.

For most organizations, the eDiscovery process involves searching through vast amounts of electronic information, including email, documents, databases, image files, instant messages, chats and more. This data lives in laptops, file repositories, SaaS applications, and popular collaborative workspaces – creating a vast digital footprint and a number of non-physical environments to mine for critical, time-sensitive data.

Once ESI is identified as being potentially relevant information for litigation or regulatory purposed, it must be preserved in a sharable format.  Preserving data for legal purposes not only ensures that sensitive information cannot be altered, deleted, erased or tampered with —but a failure to do so can breach eDiscovery compliance protocols and can have severe consequences, including fines and possible criminal prosecution.

What is the eDiscovery process and how does it work?

To help organizations successfully navigate the process, the Electronic Discovery Reference Model or EDRM was created to serve as an overarching framework. It has nine distinct stages. These stages are not always a linear progression from one to the other, but a good eDiscovery process should include all of them. Several of the stages can (and often should) happen at the same time:

  • Information Governance: This is the general strategy any organization should have to mitigate their risks and expenses should eDiscovery be needed—from initial creation of ESI through its final disposition.

  • Identification: Locating potential sources of ESI and determining its scope, breadth, and depth.

  • Preservation and Collection: Ensuring ESI is collected and preserved – protecting against inappropriate or accidental alteration or destruction throughout the remainder of the  eDiscovery process.

  • Processing, Review, and Analysis: This stage refers to the analysis of preserved data. Users commonly convert data to suitable forms for review, then reduce the volume of ESI by evaluating its relevance and privilege. Then analysis commonly requires a thorough evaluation of the context of the ESI, including key patterns, topics, people, or discussions.

  • Production: Delivering applicable ESI, articles, and data to others involved in the legal or regulatory proceedings using appropriate methods.

  • Presentation: Displaying of ESI before relevant audiences in native or near-native forms for legal purposes.

Why are eDiscovery solutions important?

The sheer amount of data created in a single day is staggering. On average—294 billion emails, 65 billion WhatsApp messages, and 500 million tweets are sent every day globally. By 2025, it is estimated that 463 exabytes of data will be created each day. And the ease with which such information can be exchanged and stored has only increased. Filing cabinets have been replaced with email and file servers, storage arrays, jump drives, desktops, and even smartwatches—all of which could store relevant information in a legal case and are subject to eDiscovery.

The rapid increase of cloud-based collaborative tools means O365 eDiscovery should be considered, as many early eDiscovery efforts focused mainly on on-premise data. Without proper solutions, data custodians, administrators, and legal counsel cannot effectively (and efficiently) compiled and preserve relevant information for legal, regulatory, and compliance purposes. 

Organizations who fail to have a game plan to meet new legal requirements for eDiscovery could be facing severe adverse consequences. Because of this, eDiscovery compliance should be a priority for any organization.

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Benefits of eDiscovery solutions

For compliance officers, regulatory professionals, and data custodians, tracking down relevant data is more challenging than ever. It often requires hunting for sensitive information across user devices, disparate systems, and multiple environments. This painstaking process slows velocity and increases the risk of overlooking important and relevant information. eDiscovery solutions provide requisite tools to expedite and respond to litigation, compliance, or regulatory requests.

Pertinent data can easily be pinpointed across a multitude of digital environments and data can be rapidly preserved in exportable formats for review. With proper eDiscovery controls, organizations benefit from reduced the costs and efforts while mitigating the risks involved in the discovery process of ESI.

Common use cases for eDiscovery solutions

Organizations of all industries, sizes, and geographies can benefit from Electronic Discovery solutions. The most common use cases include:

  • Preparation for pending litigation
  • Responding to regulatory matters
  • Compliance with external, third-party investigations or audits
  • Conducting of internal investigations (such as policy enforcement or HR incidents)
  • Mergers and acquisitions

While the eDiscovery process and the need for eDiscovery compliance extends to all forms of electronically stored information, organizations have had an increasing need to focus on specific environments – including Microsoft 365 and laptop devices.

  • Microsoft 365 eDiscovery
    Microsoft 365 is one of the most common office productivity solutions in the world. It contains critical files, emails, and messages, all of which are commonly relevant for litigation and regulatory purposes, making O365 Electronic Discovery a critical need for today’s organizations. An effective O365 eDiscovery solution should comprehensively cover Exchange.

  • Endpoint eDiscovery
    eDiscovery compliance also extends to user laptops and desktops. With the rapid increase in remote work, endpoint device usage has skyrocketing – driving more data at the edge (and outside of corporate governed networks).

However, eDiscovery solutions that only focus on metadata may not be sufficient for robust eDiscovery compliance.

Does Commvault offer eDiscovery?

Yes! Commvault Endpoint Backup & Recovery and Microsoft 365 Backup offer advanced data management capabilities that make O365 eDiscovery and Endpoint eDiscovery nearly effortless. It provides a single interface to identify, categorize, and securely preserve data across both environments.

This drastically accelerates and simplifies the eDiscovery process. With deep and granular search and export capabilities, eDiscovery empowers users with one, consolidated experience for eDiscovery of Microsoft 365 and Endpoint data. Paired with data protection, organizations now get the best of industry leading backup and recovery, combined with advanced tools to satisfy regulatory compliance requirements with ease and precision.

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