Two Years Later, Federal Digital Storage Rules Still a Mystery to Many

The court-rule amendments, known as the FRCP and placed into effect on Dec. 1, 2006, say businesses must be able to quickly find and make available relevant data when required by a court. Often, business information that could also serve as evidence in a criminal or civil lawsuit is required to be made available in as few as 30 days. Many enterprises are still in the dark about this.

Exactly two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court quietly enacted a package of changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a set of legal guidelines that govern all levels of courts in the United States.
Among them were changes to rules 26 and 34 through 37, which clarify the issue of e-discovery of critical evidence.
These amendments, adopted by the court in April 2006 and placed into effect on Dec. 1, 2006, say businesses must be able to quickly find and make available relevant data when required by a court-federal or otherwise. Often, business information that could also serve as evidence in a criminal or civil lawsuit is required to be made available in as few as 30 days.
That means that every electronic document stored by businesses-e-mail, instant messages, computer logs, financials, voice mail, and all text and graphical documents-must be easily retrievable. It also means that an enterprise must have in place a standard, repeatable, predictable method of storing and accessing its digital data-including established rules about who has access, how long it is kept and where it is maintained.
To not produce such evidence in a timely fashion not only could irritate the presiding judge, but it also could result in stiff fines and responsibility for payment of extra court costs due to delays-not to mention possibly losing the case.
Two years later, most analysts and industry people contacted by eWEEK believe that these changes are well-known and observed by the Fortune 5000 and most midmarket-size companies around the world, most of which have legal staffs or law firms looking out for them at all times.
It's the small to medium-size businesses that some observers are worried about. Just like a large enterprise, they, too, can be sued for any number of reasons. Often, the first time some small-business owners hear about the new rules governing storage of digital information is by reading about a related lawsuit in the news.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he has...