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When faced with the task of managing, producing or collecting electronic data, where do you start? The obvious places are, of course, servers, workstations and backup tapes. A large majority of transactions take up residence in at least one of these areas during a typical business day. Documents (and temporary copies) are created, then stored on the server, and in some instances on individual PCs and laptops. E-mail messages are collected and perhaps archived also at the server. Backup tapes collect and preserve all official data living on our servers ensuring that it is available at any time, under even extreme circumstances. Because the bulk of our data resides, or at least passes through, the network backbone, this could arguably be the most obvious place to turn to when gathering electronic evidence. However, other areas that do not command such diligent attention may also provide exposure. In managing client data, we carefully plan retention policies to keep only what is necessary and cull any extraneous material so as to reduce backup and recovery payloads. As the volume of data to be preserved increases, so does the required expenditure of time, media and hardware — all finite resources. More data means more tapes to buy. More tapes mean more tape drives, and more tape drives mean more server hardware and software licensing as well as labor hours and off-site storage expense. As the hardware needs grow, so does the time required to complete the backup operation, and that, of course, must be kept within the few non-working hours leftover by the legal teams. Backup and protection of only necessary data also shortens recovery times should the need arise. In such a dire circumstance as a disaster recovery, it would be imperative to provide the fastest possible restoration. Taking additional time to restore unnecessary data would produce unacceptable results. Ask anyone responsible for Exchange server management, and they will most likely tell you their major challenge is the volume of e-mail messages stored. Each e-mail user sends and receives hundreds of messages daily. The volume of messages outpaces our daily capacity, so often items are left scattered throughout our inbox to be addressed at a later time. Add to this our natural aversion to permanently deleting matter-related information and the multistep process required by most e-mail applications to permanently eradicate a message, and you have the foundation for e-mail storage management difficulties. One of the main methods used to address this issue involves the use of .pst files which can land anywhere on your network from a single PC or notebook computer, to a CD/DVD or even on a home computer. If auto-archiving is used, it is quite possible to unintentionally leave .pst files (as well as file types) on a computer in a hotel business center or Internet café. The auto-archive process starts automatically (and silently) on a regular schedule when a user logs into the system. If remote access is being used, the archive file can inadvertently be created on the remote computer. An attorney using auto-archiving could leave a veritable bread crumb trail of .pst files full of confidential e-mail. Similarly, instant messengers log all communication onto a server, so using any IM service other than one supplied by your firm for client-related communication can leave that information outside your control. A carefully prepared request to produce may point directly to information that has been left unguarded. Anyone charged as the custodian of client data will want to first ensure policies and procedures are in place to limit the amount of data “leaked” into uncontrolled areas. After your policy and procedures are developed, effective execution will be dependant upon your communication and training program at the end-user level. Your litigation team may also be surprised at what they may uncover if they include home PCs, portable laptops, CD/DVD media and external drives in their discovery efforts. Deena Coffman is director of information technology at New York City’s Kronish Lieb Weiner & Hellman.

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