Dashboard: Vendors Jump on e-Discovery Bandwagon

The courts just got tougher on companies that don't have their informational houses in order. And software vendors large and small are scrambling to demonstrate how their products will help companies accomplish just that.

The courts just got tougher on companies that don't have their informational houses in order. Under the newly revised Federal Rules of Civil Procedures (FRCP), which went into effect Dec. 1, companies involved in civil litigation must be able to provide electronically stored data as evidence earlier in the process then ever before, or face the prospect of penalties or even lost courtroom battles. To do this, companies must have a keen understanding of where any relevant data is stored, as well as how to access and produce that data. Software vendors large and small have been scrambling to demonstrate how their products will help companies accomplish just that.

"I've received about 4,000 press releases [claiming to fit the bill]," says Brian Babineau, senior analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group. Some are rife with what amount to scare tactics, noting the $1.5 billion Morgan Stanley was forced to pay when it lost a case last year, a verdict partly caused by its failure to preserve e-mail messages that were considered to be evidence. The Morgan Stanley example is a worst-case scenario, but nonetheless, there is plenty to worry about. "Most organizations have no idea what information they have or where they've stored it," Babineau says.

The vendors best suited to address the discovery problem are those that specialize in enterprise-search engines or in email, file and database archiving. "The more they can do as far as indexing, search and retrieval, and the more context they can support, the more benefit they are to the company," Babineau says. Here's a roundup of a few such vendors, what they offer and how their products might help:

n Abrevity was quick to launch an add-in product called eDiscovery Module in the wake of the amended FRCP. Part of the company's FileData Classifier data mining and modeling suite, the add-in is designed to customize the scanning, indexing and tagging of information. Tagging here means to place any record that might be relevant to a lawsuit on legal hold.

n Search vendor Vivisimo has the Velocity Search Platform, which uses clustering technology to index and cull information from multiple repositories and data types. In a discovery role, the end users would be in the general counsel's office, not IT. "Almost all general counsels have come to conclusion that, if the tools are available, they'd much rather turn to paralegals and say 'do this for me,' and never involve IT," says Mark Dye, Vivisimo's vice president of business development.

n Scentric is touting its ability to deal with "universally classified" information, whether it's a file, an e-mail message or info on a database. A component called Data Mover identifies the relevant record and moves it to a secure subsystem, where it can't be deleted.

n Perhaps no type of record is more important to making or breaking a case than e-mail, which brings to mind Symantec and Zantaz, which have played in the legal-support software space for some time. EMC has a made a series of acquisitions addressing all areas of data management, including e-mail.

n AXS-One recently teamed up with MessageGate, an e-mail-governance software provider, to scan and classify messages before they enter mailboxes. Irrelevant messages are ignored to limit the amount of data that needs to be poured over.

n CommVault has rolled out a new add-in product designed to index, scan and extract e-mail messages in Microsoft Outlook. The new feature is part of the company's Unified Data Management suite, which creates a single repository for relevant records.

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