Why e-discovery is different than searching cloud mail

Danny Bradbury

Email e-discovery is a complex process. Relying on your cloud-based email inbox to trawl through historical communications will quickly land you in trouble. Instead, investing in a dedicated archiving and e-discovery solution up front will save valuable time later on. Here’s why your cloud email inbox won’t make the grade for legal e-discovery.

The litmus test for your archiving system is its support for the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (ERDM). This standard, developed by the EDRM industry association, is a set of nine stages encompassing the entire e-discovery process, from initial information management through to final presentation in a legal setting.

Your email e-discovery system should be able to support all of these EDRM stages, and you’ll rapidly find that basic cloud email without a dedicated archiving and email e-discovery option fails in several ways.

Preserving email

preservingTake one of the key EDRM stages, for example: preservation. Once created, email is supposed to be properly preserved so that its provenance can be proven in court. Legal representatives rely on accuracy when determining the time that an email was created, for example. In a dedicated archiving system, email will be timestamped so that its creation time is irrefutable. Cloud email without an archiving feature can often be tampered with so that email appears to have been sent at a different time.

Similarly, email can be rendered tamper-proof in a dedicated archiving and e-discovery solution, so that people cannot go back and alter its contents after the fact – or delete it altogether, pretending that it never existed. This is a feature that regular cloud-based email systems typically don’t report.

Finding email

findingWhen a litigation hold letter arrives from legal counsel, it may require your company to find and preserve emails relating to a particular person, transaction, topic, or entire project. Searching for that mail can be like looking for a needle in an electronic haystack. How will you cope with it?

Your cloud-based email service may support basic search parameters such as sender, receiver, age, text content and whether the mail has an attachment or not. You’ll quickly find that this isn’t enough. A grown-up e-discovery solution has much more, including federation of search results from different file types, and the ability to tag search results for further action.

It will enable you to take action on search results (such as adding them to a ZIP file, perhaps). This searching uses detailed metadata gathered and indexed at the time that the mail was archived, making the email e-discovery process smoother, faster, and more accurate than a simple cloud email system could manage.

Presenting your findings

Searching for the relevant email is one thing, but getting it out is another. How will your cloud-based email solution export the findings from a search? Will headers be included? Is the email exportable at all, or will your IT department be forced to print each thing individually to a PDF?

A dedicated legal e-discovery system will be able to export its findings in various formats, including perhaps PDF but also a compressed ZIP file for convenience.

The right tool for the job

The most competent of people make difficult tasks look easy. So it is with e-discovery solutions; depending on cloud-based email inboxes alone for your email e-discovery process may take considerable time, and produce poor results. A dedicated legal e-discovery solution, whether in the cloud or in-house, is more likely to find the right mail in a short amount of time.