Federal Government Agencies Face Information Management Challenges, Too

by Barry Murphy

Many moons ago, one of my first projects as an analyst with Forrester Research was to find the answer to a seemingly simple question: what is the industry standard for storing new types of electronic information such as X-rays and other images?  The client was a government agency that needed to store these records long-term and anticipated potentially needing to produce them in court many years in the future.  fed image 2As such, the agency needed to know how to store and find these records.  The answer proved to be anything but simple – in reality, the answer was that there was no “standard” for storing this new type of content.  My investigation into the topic led me to find this new market called eDiscovery and the rest is history.

The experience was interesting because it was my first foray into working with the Federal government.  I went into the experience with the assumption that Federal agencies would somehow be more advanced in their information management efforts.  Records management, after all, was (and still is) very important in government.  But, government agencies are just like other organizations – struggling to keep up with exploding volumes of digital information, under the gun to respond to information requests (whether it is in response to Congressional inquiries, regulatory requests, or litigation), and dealing with the needs for more modern IT infrastructure elements like Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).

The only difference between government agencies and other organizations is that agencies may be under even more stringent rules for complying with investigations and for dealing with digital information management.  President Obama’s Managing Government Records directive mandates that agencies manage electronic information as stringently as paper records have traditionally been managed.  Agencies are under even more of a microscope than corporations, yet face the same information management challenges.  Information assets are scattered across email, file systems, disparate SharePoint sites, and Cloud-based repositories.  In addition, some agencies adopt newer IT infrastructure elements such as virtualization and cloud computing to stay relevant.  For example, the Department of Energy deployed a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) in order to enable worker mobility (Source: Zurier, Steve. Agencies Deploy VDI with an Eye Toward BYOD. Fed Tech Magazine, March 18, 2013). VDI allows agencies to implement initiatives like BYOD while maintaining top-notch security.

Keeping up with modern IT infrastructure, while simultaneously responding to thousands of information requests each year – whether it is in response to Congressional inquiries, regulatory requests, or litigation – is a challenge.  Before assuming that government agencies have the process under control, consider this: according to Deloitte’s Seventh Annual Benchmarking Study of Electronic Discovery Practices for Government Agencies, only 59% of respondents believed their agencies were effective in deploying eDiscovery capabilities compared to 73% in the previous year (Source: Deloitte’s Seventh Annual Benchmarking Study of Electronic Discovery Practices for Government Agencies, Spring 2013).

Why the drop in confidence?  Part of the reason is that traditional search and eDiscovery products fail to effectively support agencies’ IT environments in a way that creates a true solution.  Rather, traditional products have agencies creating centralized eDiscovery labs that require copying information from various systems to a central eDiscovery location.  This is both time-consuming and expensive.  To learn how to address information management challenges in federal agencies, click here to download a whitepaper that outlines the critical problem, its legal compliance implications, and compelling solutions that help agencies develop built-in search and eDiscovery capabilities that reduce costs and improve operational productivity.

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X1 First To Offer Social Discovery Certification

by Barry Murphy

Education, training, and certification programs are foundational elements of any profession.  When it comes to relatively new functions like social media discovery, the importance of good training and certification options is amplified.  There is a dearth of expertise coupled with the need for corporations and law firms to address challenges quickly – that combination creates an immediate need for formal and effective training.

The activities within the eDiscovery profession tend to be specialized.  For example, forensic disk imaging requires a specific skill set that is very different from the skill set required to run predictive coding review workflows and projects.  As a result, generic eDiscovery certifications have yet to gain mainstream traction in a meaningful way.  This is not to say such programs are not valuable; they are.  However, given the lack of a standards board or independent third-party that has published a treatise on what it means to be qualified to perform “eDiscovery,” it is difficult for any one certification to be an industry standard.  Further, the eDiscovery profession is a sum of many tasks, most of which are performed by various team members (as opposed to one person being responsible for, or capable of performing, all).  What I hear from eDiscovery professionals when it comes to certification is that there is simply not enough definition as to what it means to be a certified eDiscovery professional.

One type of certification that is more important than ever is vendor-specific (or tool-specific) certification.  Previous eDJ Group research had validated the fact that training and education programs are critically important for the practice of eDiscovery.

Vendor certifications

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For years, it has been critically important that forensic investigators be certified on the tools they use – such as Guidance Software’s Encase (EnCE, EnCEP) or AccessData’s FTK (ACE).  Likewise, the Relativity Certified Administrator credential (RCA) from kCura has gained significance in the hosting and review market.  As such, upon joining X1, I was very pleased to hear that the company will offer certification for our X1 Social Discovery tool.  Why is certification for the Social Discovery tool so important?  First, social media is now ingrained in our business lives.  eDJ Group research from September 2013 shows that almost two-thirds of workers now use external social networks like Facebook or LinkedIn for business purposes.

Social Media Part of Business

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Second, social discovery is still fairly new and requires in-depth training.  With X1 Social Discovery, users need to understand how MD5 hash values of individual items are calculated upon capture and maintained through export. They need to understand the automated logging and reports that are generated. They need to be educated on the key metadata unique to social media & web streams that are captured through deep integration with APIs provided by the sites and how this metadata is important to establishing chain of custody and authentication.  Given these new challenges, a certification program just makes sense.  Even better, X1’s Social Discovery tool will be the only one on the market with a certification program in place.  That will be an important distinction in the market, especially given the large amount of law enforcement customers for the product (doing things by the book is extremely critical in law enforcement investigations).

The X1 Social Discovery Certification course, offered by DigitalShield, will cover:

  • Introduction to the foundational skills and knowledge needed to understand social media collection, analysis, review and delivery
  • Best practices for locating and collecting social media
  • Providing investigators, digital forensic examiners and eDiscovery practitioners with the technical skills to use X1 Social Discovery
  • Hands-on training using X1 Social Discovery to collect, manage, and analyze data from Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, webmail and websites

To sign up for the training or to learn more, click here >  

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Highlights from Reed Smith’s SharePoint eDiscovery Webinar

by John Patzakis

Reed Smith recently hosted an excellent webinar on SharePoint eDiscovery challenges, led by Patrick Burke with the firm’s eDiscovery team. The webinar featured a substantive and detailed discussion on the nuances, pitfalls and opportunities associated with eDiscovery of data from SharePoint sites. This topic is very timely as the majority of enterprises are deploying the Microsoft platform at an accelerated rate, with the solution reaching $1 billion in sales faster than any other Microsoft product in history. Burke noted that “SharePoint has exploded across corporate networks, and are filling rapidly with ESI,” but that “the bad news is that it’s not centralized. There is no single place to go to search through the ESI across an organization’s SharePoint sites to identify which SharePoint Site holds the ESI you’re looking for.”

As SharePoint enables enterprises to consolidate file shares, Intranet sites, internal message boards and wikis, project management, collaboration and more into a single platform, it provides significant operational efficiencies as well as eDiscovery challenges. The vast majority of current SharePoint deployments are versions 2007 or 2010, and neither have meaningful internal eDiscovery or even export features. This is one reason why SharePoint eDiscovery is fraught with over-collection, resulting in much higher costs and time delays that what is typically seen with other similar data stores such as email servers and file shares.

In addressing best practices for eDiscovery of SharePoint sites, Burke advised, among other key points, that the litigation hold process must not only involve individual custodians but the SharePoint administrator as well: “As it usually isn’t feasible to search all an organization’s SharePoint sites, the first step is to talk to the key custodians (through litigation hold questionnaire processes) and ask them which SharePoint sites they use (to identify) relevant ESI.” From there, “the cross-check involves talking with the SharePoint administrator, who can look up all the SharePoint sites to which the custodian’s belong.”

A full video recording of the webinar can be accessed here >

Appliance-based eDiscovery solutions or remote collections do not work as it may take weeks, if not months, to copy a multi-terabyte SharePoint site over a network connection and a large corporation may have several dozens of SharePoint silos from which to collect.  Manual collection efforts, which are geared toward mass “data dumps,” are also time consuming and are typically very costly due to the extensive processing and data massaging required to put the SharePoint data back into context.

Instead, what is needed is a solution such as X1 Rapid Discovery can quickly and remotely install and operate within the same local network domain to enable localized search, review and early case assessment in place. X1 Rapid Discovery’s full content indexing and preview of native SharePoint document libraries and lists, as well as its robust search, document filters, intuitive review interface uniquely enables targeted and contextual search, preservation and export of SharePoint evidence in its native format. In fact, we believe it is the only solution available that enables true in-place early case assessment and eDiscovery review of SharePoint sites, including iterative search, tagging and full fidelity preview in place, without the requirement to first export all of the data out of the platform.

To learn more, sign on to the recorded webinar or please contact us for a further briefing to learn how to save your organization or your clients tens of thousands of dollars on litigations costs associated with SharePoint.

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Filed under Best Practices, Case Law, eDiscovery & Compliance, Enterprise eDiscovery, Information Access, Preservation & Collection