Microsoft Beefs Up Office 365 E-Discovery

New case management controls and an expanded set of search capabilities help enterprises find and isolate business information when lawyers and regulators come calling.


For enterprises operating in industries that are heavily regulated or attract a lot of litigation, e-discovery is a necessary evil. This week, Microsoft released new updates to its Office 365 Security & Compliance Center e-discovery features that are designed to help reduce the time it takes to conduct investigations, putting legal and regulatory matters to rest faster.

The updated Security & Compliance Center now features a case management option in its eDiscovery page, enabling users to work on cases without leaving the software. The new case management feature can be used to link compliance searches with a case, place holds on content sources and determine who is allowed to access a given case.

The Office 365 eDiscovery Case Management Hold feature preserves data in content sources, preventing tampering or deletion while a case is being conducted. Investigators can select Office 365 groups, OneDrive for Business sites, SharePoint sites and mailboxes. Meanwhile, user productivity remains unaffected, claims Microsoft. The feature works in the background, making documents and email available to users while preserving them for future searches and potential exporting.

Exporting search results is faster, and new options enable users to conduct investigations involving emails more efficiently, claims Microsoft.

"You can export the results from searching tens of thousands of mailboxes—up to 100 GB of data in a single PST [Personal Storage Table file] export," explained the company in a May 17 blog post. "The ability to search all mailboxes in the organization and export the results in a single PST export, versus multiple PSTs, helps our customers collect email in an extremely useful format for broad investigations."

The enhanced export feature keeps SharePoint document metadata intact and supports two-factor authentication for added security, added Microsoft.

In addition, Office 365 Security & Compliance Center now sports more granular, permission-based search functionality.

Within an e-discovery case, users can search a small number of content sources, an entire organization and everything in between. Access to searches conducted as part of an e-discovery case can now be confined to people who are part of the case. Organizations can also cut the volume of data sent for review with the Advanced eDiscovery feature, which can reconstruct email threads, detect near-duplicate files and uncover pertinent data relationships and themes, according to the company.

Finally, Microsoft teased that more e-discovery capabilities are on the way. They include a storage-sipping export deduplication feature and improved visibility in the form of keyword statistics and content source statistics.

Considering many of the world's large enterprises use Microsoft's Office software, providing native e-discovery capabilities is a fitting extension of the productivity software platform. Last year, Microsoft acquired Equivio, an Israeli firm specializing in text and document analytics for e-discovery purposes. Equivio's software, which employs machine-learning technologies, is used by hundreds of law firms, large corporations and even U.S. federal agencies to find information pertaining to legal and compliance matters, according to Microsoft.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...