Big impact lessons in email protection

As massive storage becomes common, its importance growsTwo recent stories highlight the importance of massive storage and the people who manage it.Intel vs AMDAMD is suing Intel for anti-trust violations, claiming that Intel illegally used its market power to choke off AMD sales.
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor

As massive storage becomes common, its importance grows Two recent stories highlight the importance of massive storage and the people who manage it.

Intel vs AMD AMD is suing Intel for anti-trust violations, claiming that Intel illegally used its market power to choke off AMD sales. During discovery, the legal process that is supposed to get both sides to cough up all the evidence, both sides discovered that Intel's email preservation had some massive holes in it.

Under US law, once a company becomes aware that they might be sued, they have a duty to preserve all relevant documents, good or bad, for the discovery process. This preservation is called a "litigation hold" and this is where Intel screwed up. Instead of immediately archiving executive emails, they were just instructed to preserve any that might have bearing on the case. Not all of them did.

The problem is that if the judge decides that the deleted emails were likely detrimental to Intel, he can instruct the jury to make an "adverse inference." In other words, he can tell the jury to assume the missing emails showed wrongdoing, which is tantamount to requiring a guilty verdict. In this case a guilty verdict could cost Intel several billion dollars while giving AMD a tax-free war chest for R&D.

A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you're talking real money Even mighty Intel can't ignore that kind of risk. So they've gone to the judge and said they are undertaking a massive review of all their backup tapes, archives and probably running file recovery software on laptops and servers in an effort to recover every email. It will be one of the largest and most costly data recovery efforts of all time.

The storage professional's work on this job - good or bad - will affect the competitive landscape in the chip industry for decades to come.

Meanwhile, on the east coast Another battle over lost email is shaping up, this time between Congress, the White House and the Republican National Committee.

Under executive branch policy, all official emails by White House staffers are to be archived. However, numerous senior White House officials skirted the policy by using email maintained by the RNC, who didn't bother to archive them until a couple of years ago. The result: hundreds of thousands of missing emails.

Hi, I'm from the government and I'm here to help . . . myself. Whether the emails would exculpate the White House from charges that federal prosecutors were ordered to favor Republicans in corruption investigations isn't known. However, the loss of the emails has led to an "adverse inference" by many Americans, who now assume that this deeply unpopular President also sought to subvert the principle of equality before the law for partisan advantage.

As in the Intel case, the RNC, to its credit, is reported to be attempting to recover the lost emails. This is another case where the storage pros working this project will help shape the political climate for decades.

The Storage Bits take Whether President Bush goes down in history as a great man or a power-grubbing disaster, ubiquitous email has already proven itself a valuable resource for companies, governments and individuals alike. Protecting that resource is a growing responsibility with potentially grave legal, political and social implications. Are you ready?

Do you know what, if any, litigation hold policy your company has? Are you ready to implement a litigation hold if company legal counsel requests it? Do you know the records management professionals in your company? Do you know what they do?

Stovepipes are common today, but they will be getting ripped out over the next five years. The technology of massive storage brings new meaning to the word "accountability." Is your email present and accounted for?

Comments welcome, of course.

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