E-Discovery in Microsoft Exchange 2010: Part 3

The following post is part three of a nine part video/blog series on e-discovery in Microsoft Exchange 2010. Thus far, Paul and Marta have taken an introductory look at e-discovery and the importance of ordained business processes. This week, they’ll dive into some of the key features of Exchange 2010, starting with multi-mailbox search. Enjoy!

Paul: Microsoft has been in an email server business for a while, and at the time that they first designed Exchange, I think it’s fair to say that the concept of e-discovery wasn’t exactly common. The number of electronic records was few, and those that did exist were difficult to get to. For a long time, the information contained within regular databases (like HR or payroll systems) was not discoverable. In other words, you couldn’t request an entire copy of the database. For example, you might have requested a record that contains all of the pertinent information about a given employee, which was (and still is) perfectly fine, given the right circumstance. However, you couldn’t simply request a copy of the whole database to peruse at will.

But the rules have changed over time. And when rules change, the software has to change. In Exchange 2003, Microsoft gave us the ability to take a database offline and do some things with it. This was much the work of third parties, though, and none of the features were geared specifically towards electronic discovery. In 2007, Microsoft started to introduce some of the features that we think of as being e-discovery related – mainly the ability to do searches from the command line of multiple mailboxes at once and input the results into a PST file. Also, we had the fairly primitive ability to put content into and take content out of PST files, making dealing with them a little more feasible. In Exchange 2010, though, Microsoft has introduced a boatload of additional features. Let’s spend a few minutes talking about these features before we get into their real-world applications.

Multi-Mailbox Search

Paul: So, the first thing that comes to mind is multi-mailbox search. Most of the time, when people hear ‘e-discovery’, this is the first thing that they think about (besides lawyers). How am I going to going to retrieve the requested data? And more importantly, how am I going to get this data into a presentable form? Clearly, it’s really important to know what you’re looking for in the first place. But let’s first talk about how you go from a legal request to actually finding the right information. For instance: find all of the mail that talks about Project X or Employee Y. How do you actually do that in Exchange? What is that experience like?

Marta: The first thing that you have to do is to get the requirements. It really depends upon how you have Exchange setup within your organization. Is it setup so that your legal people, HR people, or whoever is interested in the data can do searches for themselves? Or are you doing it from an administrative point of view? One of the nice parts about Exchange 2010 is its interface for multi-mailbox searches. This, like the collection of tools in Exchange, has been restructured for litigation purposes – litigation holds, retention policies, etc.

Want specifics? Check out this comprehensive guide to multi-mailbox search.

All in all, the new features make Exchange much, much easier to use. Unlike something like PowerShell, the auto-trail – a feature that keeps a record of your searches – is built into the system. Now, there are still challenges with the multi-mailbox search; there’s no doubt about it. The first concern is that there’s a lot of electronically stored data that isn’t in Exchange 2010. If you haven’t imported your PSTs and you’re not using personal archives, you’ll have to make sure that you get all of this data. In addition, there’s plenty of data in basic communications that’s becoming more and more involved in litigation. Traditionally, electronic discovery stood for email discovery. However, so much more of electronic business processes occurs outside of email. Think about SharePoint, social media interactions, your laptops, your cell phones. All of these devices and mediums through which we communicate are discoverable. It’s called ‘electronically stored information’.

Moving forward, it’s important to think about how many electronic devices we store information on and where we use these devices, as all of them are theoretically discoverable. Also, it’s important that your lawyers have an understanding of what is and is not discoverable, and that you educate them as to where your data lies. But coming back to Microsoft Exchange, yes, the multi-mailbox search feature is really nice.

Have you used the multi-mailbox search feature in Exchange 2010? How has it improved your e-discovery business processes? Learn more about Sherpa Software’s solutions for electronic data discovery.

This concludes part three of our nine part series on E-discovery in Microsoft Exchange 2010. Check back in the coming weeks for part four, in which Paul and Marta will continue their discussion on the new features of Exchange 2010.

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