E-Discovery in Microsoft Exchange 2010: Part 6

The following post is part six of a nine part video/blog series on e-discovery in Microsoft Exchange 2010. In last week’s post, Paul and Marta discussed some of the litigation hold features that Exchange 2010 offers. In this week’s segment, they’ll discuss personal archives and some of the challenges that come along with managing PST files. They’ll also dig a bit deeper into retention policies. Enjoy!

Paul: One thing that we haven’t talked about thus far is the personal archive. I know that Sherpa is heavily invested in the data management space, trying to help people, so I won’t say that we should get rid of PST files altogether. But, personally, I’ll be very happy if they all vanish. Poof!

Anyways, one of the things that the personal archive is supposed to do is to provide you with a way to take these PSTs (which can be scattered everywhere) and organize them on the Exchange server. You know; you can relocate them so that they can be managed, backed up, and ultimately discovered. How do you think Microsoft did with that as a version one feature in Exchange 2010?

Marta: Actually, I think they did a really good job with SP1. The key is being proactive when implementing it. PSTs can be quite a challenge, mostly because you usually don’t have any control over them. A PST is like any other individual file. You can put them anywhere. You can do anything with them. And once again, from a legal point of view, you are liable for them.

Read about what’s new in Microsoft Exchange 2010 SP1.

So, yeah, from this lack of control can stem many problems, most related to retention policies and lost files. Sherpa Software offers tools to help you transplant your PSTs into the personal archives, which basically acts as a one-stop shop for your retention policy, litigation hold policy, etc. Honestly, it’s fantastic. But you have to be proactive. You have to get your PSTs and put them into the personal archives. It’s not going to happen all by itself.

Paul: Yes; that’s an interesting way to think of it. Most of the time, when I talk to customers about personal archives, they like being able to give their users large mailboxes with extra space for old items that might be referred back to. As IT administrators, or the IT department, we have no idea if this stuff has any business value or not. The users say that it does, and we would rather have it in a personal archive than a deleted items folder.

A few weeks ago, I was working with a customer that had an end user with more than 80,000 items in their deleted items folder. Every time they were done with something in their inbox or any other folder, they would delete it. Then, if they needed it later, they would go into the deleted items folder and get it there. Now, as an Exchange admin, that just makes you want to cry. Thankfully, personal archives give us a way out of these types of situations. The conversation between the customer and the end user might go something like this:

“Okay, Mr. End User, I present you with this lovely 20GB quota archive, and you can put all of your old items in it! We’ll back it up. We’ll manage it. We’ll maintain it. And you can search it! You never have to worry about losing anything! Now . . . would you please stop filing things in deleted items?”

Marta: Definitely. I’ve seen some enormous mailboxes. You know, a lot of the attorneys…

Paul can’t help but interject.

Paul: They’re the worst about this! Aren’t they?

Marta: They really are. Executives and attorneys. And they have the most power in an organization. They can say, “Well, I should be exempt from the retention policy.”

Paul: Now, that’s an interesting question. Can you do that? I mean, can you have one tier policy for executives and separate tiers for other employees? Is that defensible in court?

Marta: Absolutely. If you articulate it, it’s completely defensible. First of all, though, you should really create your policies with not just your IT and business people, but your legal people, as well. They should all be involved in the process of creating the policy. If it does come down to the executives having a separate retention policy, just make sure that it’s written down. Make sure that everyone knows that this is the retention policy that they have to stick to. Again, as long as you have these things articulated, you will be covered.

Paul: Okay. Good. So, essentially, this whole process is about figuring out what you’re going to do, creating a policy that outlines these things, and then actually doing it and verifying that you have done it or are doing it?

Marta: Right. Also, keep in mind that in some organizations – financial services organizations, for example – there are certain regulations in place that dictate that emails for certain divisions (like brokers) must be stored for very long periods of time. They obviously have a completely separate retention policy archiving system from the secretary or another employee in the organization.

Paul: Yes, and to avoid scaring people too much, we’ll end by saying that, if you work in an industry like this, the odds are really good that you’re already aware of these policies.

Have you had success managing PST files with personal archives? What have been your experiences with tiered organizational retention policies? Let us know in the comments below!

Next week, Paul and Marta will move onto discussing the application of the features that they’ve discussed thus far. Check back for more insights into the e-discovery functionality of Microsoft Exchange 2010.

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