The e-Discovery of Tape

Opinion: The clock is ticking on a set of rules for supplying digital documents for court cases. However, a storage vendor has an appliance that can grab records off of tape archives, index them and let lawyers search for evidence of misdeeds.

The pressure on storage managers to dig out specific content in archives keeps growing as more companies are finding themselves saddled with urgent "e-discovery" motions for digital data. If this process goes wrong, it could cost your company millions and the boss could go to jail (and more importantly, you will likely lose your job). However, a product that combines storage savvy with search technology may be a solution that fits the enterprise storage workflow.

Extending its storage networking search technology to tape archives, Index Engines on Sept. 25 introduced its Offline eDiscovery appliance. According to the company, the device supports a wide range of tape and data archival formats including EMCs Legato, IBMs Tivoli Storage Manager and Symantecs Veritas.

According to Jim McGann, Index Engines vice president of marketing, enterprise IT departments can quickly integrate the appliance into existing backup infrastructure.

"You have a tape thats sitting in Iron Mountain, take that content and dump it directly into the tape indexing appliance. It will index all the content on that tape so you can search on it and find an e-mail that was sent by Joe Smith with the word confidential in the subject line. And all within a discovery time frame."

The device can index in near real time—or the time it takes the tape drive to read the data, he said. The appliance reads the files directly from the tape cartridges without requiring the launching of the backup application, e-mail application or system environment.

"What [managers] have to do today to find whats on the tapes is to re-create that environment: put up that old version of Exchange, [versions] 5.0 or 5.5, reinstall the software that was used to back it up—it could be an old version of Tivoli or Legato—and then get the files online and then finally start the discovery process. [Index Engines Offline eDiscovery] can index them directly. It understands the format of the backup software and the e-mail content," McGann said.

However, the entry cost may be steep for some. The appliance starts at $29,500 for an index of 2 million objects and scales upward depending on the size of the archive.

Still, the cost from dealing with an e-discovery motion can be much more. And failing to provide the data can drive the bill into the millions.

In an August Baseline case study that described the discovery process for a sexual harassment suit brought against an investment bank, the financial institution spent months searching through online and archived e-mail and messaging content as well as 180 backup tapes. Just the cost to recover the data came to almost $500,000.

And then theres the publicized 2002 case of an employee who sued UBS Warburg for sexual harassment and the company couldnt produce backup tapes for data that had been deleted. Since the data wasnt produced in court, the judge instructed the jury to count the missing data as being unfavorable to Warburg. The jury awarded the plaintiff $29 million, which after appeals was later settled out of court, certainly for a lower but still killer amount.

In addition, the Baseline article pointed to a forthcoming Dec. 1 change to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to accommodate electronic discovery. The updated rules require companies (really the lawyers, but same difference) to disclose all sources of electronic information relevant to a case, such as IM, e-mail and even records on smart phones. The rule includes data that is not "reasonably accessible" because its tough to pull out, such as those forgotten backup tapes.

And being costly or hard to recover isnt really a good answer, according to the rules amendments. Your files are your files, after all, and you should know where your data is and what its all about.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read more of Baselines coverage of legal risks around e-mail archives and electronic discovery.

It all reminds me of a nontechnical pointy-haired boss I worked for ages ago. She would ask us if something was technically "possible," and our group would dig through the thesaurus to find enough words to explain why such a course wasnt practical or could be done in a better, less costly, less painful and less time-consuming way. Or was unnecessary.

But the decision would often fall back to the difference between possible and impossible, the latter choice being often tough to defend. Things usually are possible, even if they require a miracle to accomplish. Or in the case of these discovery motions, a million or so bucks.

Next Page: Other e-discovery solutions.