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Businesses, cautious about future litigation and concerned about potential eDiscovery issues, are retaining more and more electronic information generated by their business and employees. We're not just talking about emails and .doc files, either. Electronically stored information is being collected from everything from social media apps to Internet of Things devices.
All told, there's a massive amount of ESI being stored by mid-sized and large companies -- 49.3 gigs per user for email data alone, according to a recent white paper by Osterman Research. And that number is expected to grow by more than 300 percent in the next six years, to 133 gigs.
When It Comes to ESI, Email Still Reigns
Email is by far the most common type of ESI used in eDiscovery, Osterman found, and is thus regularly preserved by organizations, if just for a while. The Osterman survey found that 80 percent of respondents who said they were "well prepared" or "very well prepared" to produce content in discovery and could produce email up to a month old. Seventy percent of those said they could produce email up to six months old.
But when it comes to older emails and other ESI, the numbers drop significantly. Only 57 percent could produce emails older than six months, while 44 percent said they could produce content stored on Office 365. Cloud storage systems? Twenty percent. Instant messages? Eight. Tweets from personal accounts? Just seven percent.
Moving Beyond Email
There is a growing need to archive a larger range of ESI, however. The report predicts that Internet of Things devices, those everyday objects with web connectivity, "will increasingly be subject to eDiscovery." Information from Amazon's Echo has been sought as part of a murder investigation, for example, and a small number of states are now regularly using ESI from cars' event data recorders "to determine the speed at which cars were travelling when they were involved in an accident." Even data from pacemakers is making its way into investigations now.
All of this means more and more data to preserve and more and more documents to produce and cull through. But as technology expands the ESI available for discovery, it might also help relieve some of eDiscovery's burdens. Machine learning programs like IBM's Watson could help automate document review, increasing attorney efficiency, according to the report. Cloud-based servers can also help reduce eDiscovery's burdens, by replacing on-premises solutions and enabling easier access to ESI.
Gigabytes upon gigabytes of ESI.