By: Admin on November 13th, 2015

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The Monster in the Dark Data Closet - Abandoned Email Archives

In the last couple of years a new term has popped up in discussions among information governance and eDiscovery practitioners to describe the mostly unstructured, uncategorized and unmanaged mountain of data that permeates every corner of an organization’s infrastructure… The new term for this unmanaged content is Dark Data.

Dark Data Equals Infobesity

Many organizations have terabytes or even petabytes of dark data sitting on file shares (share drives) almost completely uncontrolled and unmanaged by anyone. These dark data file shares have become a huge liability and cost driven by eDiscovery requirements. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) stipulate that the party responding to an eDiscovery request must make a good faith attempt to find and turn-over all relevant content in a legal case. This means that if you have 200 TB of files residing on a file share, that 200 TB must somehow be checked for relevant content which can run into the millions of dollars for each discovery request. Because of that, many organizations are now trying to bring their dark data share drives under control.

Darker Data – Abandoned and Discontinued Email Archives

There is another even darker data repository that can be an even bigger risk to organizations that no one is addressing. Email archives have been around for many years originally driven by the federal regulations created by the SEC and NASDAQ in the 90’s to gain more oversight over brokers and traders in the financial industry. Federal electronic records retention requirements (including email) quickly expanded into other regulated industries including Pharma, Energy, and many others.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys (those doing the suing) were quick to recognize the potential value of “discovering” these large email archives in civil litigation. As the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) were amended at the end of 2006 to include the definition of electronic records as discoverable, organizations scrambled to get better control of their electronic records so that they could respond to an eDiscovery request in a more cost efficient manner. Email archiving applications became popular as a risk and cost reduction measure for the quickly growing numbers of civil litigation inspired eDiscovery requests.

Numerous email archiving vendors sprang up selling hundreds of thousands or even millions of these solutions. The problem now is that many of these email archiving vendors went out of business or were bought by other companies that quickly discontinued support for the legacy email archives. The first that comes to mind is EAS originally developed by Educom, which was bought by Zantaz, which was bought by Autonomy which, finally, was bought by Hewlett Packard. The other notable email archiving vendor that went through a similar change of ownership process was Mimosa Systems and their NearPoint email archive. Mimosa was purchased by Iron Mountain Digital, whose assets were sold to Autonomy, which was purchased by Hewlett Packard. Both EAS and NearPoint were discontinued leaving current customers of these solutions with a tough choice; either pay a large purchase fee with additional cost for migrating the existing archives to upgrade to a completely new archive system, or keep the EAS or NearPoint systems with no support from the anyone and hope for the best.

Over time many of these companies which owned these email archives slowly transitioned to new archives without paying to migrate their existing archives to the new system or they just unplugged the email archives and left them sitting in the corner.

Remember the FRCP discussion above; If content relevant to a civil suit exists (and is reasonably accessible), it must be found – quickly, and turned over to the requesting party. This means that old or abandoned email archive repositories are potentially discoverable. What would your organization do if an opposing counsel requested to know if any relevant content resided in your old, non-running, 2 TB NearPoint email archive… and the Judge ordered discovery to be complete in no later than 30 days? Obviously not a situation to look forward to.

Shining a light on your Darker Data

The first step in reducing this eDiscovery risk is to determine if at any time in the past your organization ever owned an email archive. Second, find out if it’s still running. Third, if it’s not, was the archived email (and don’t forget calendar and contacts data) migrated to another archive or was it simply turned off and ignored.

The bottom line is that if that email archive data exists, you may have to access it for litigation so it’s better to proactively migrate it out of the abandoned email archive in a reviewable format so that it can be accessed quickly when needed. The last step is to filter the migrated email archive data and delete everything that you legally can so you don’t have to bother with it again.

There are several companies that say they can migrate data but few can actually migrate Mimosa NearPoint and EAS email archives. We at Archive360 have a proven track record of successfully, inexpensively, and quickly migrating huge amounts of NearPoint archived email, contacts, calendar entries and public folder content to many other storage repositories with our Archive 2-Anywhere solution. Get ahead of this risk and call us today.