SharePoint has a Sibling: E-Discovery Blessing or Curse?

Back in January 2008 a Network World article indicated that Forrester Research analysts predicting Microsoft SharePoint grabbing a huge share of the Web 2.0 market-- and they were right!

According to a recent Byte and Switch article, Microsoft's SharePoint had an adoption rate of about 55 percent by the end of 2008. Most if not all companies deploy MS Sharepoint as an enterprise portal technology to replace their static Intranet and enhance work collaboration. Naturally it generates tons of content that all need to be organized, stored, and retrieved in some fashion.

Since SharePoint content management is atypical of organizing and retrieving emails and files stored in a document management system (DMS), that translates into another layer of complexity when it comes to e-discovery- at least from a technical perspective.

One thing for sure -- Sharepoint is highly scalable. That means it has the technical ability to handle a large number of documents or concurrent users. The downside is that SharePoint data files are stored in such a way that it is difficult to manage and backup down to the folder / document level)-- until now. In collaboration with Microsoft, Mimosa Systems recently announced that they've created a version of NearPoint (an email and file archiving solution) to work with SharePoint content archiving, data protection and e-discovery support.

The Nearpoint/Sharepoint integration claims to:

  • Manage data storage costs with complete capture of all SharePoint content including documents, lists, sites and site collections, site configuration and custom metadata.

  • Expedite e-discovery processes with integrated search and in-place legal holds across SharePoint server, email and file system content.

  • Improve recovery service levels with comprehensive data protection for SharePoint server to allow easy recovery of individual items or complete sites.

That sounds all well and good but getting it to play well with your company's other network gadgets and appliances could be a daunting task. Regardless, having a data map to catalog your company's records would be a great start.

In addition to data mapping, it is critical to set up proper corporate governance policies that reflect business process changes to take advantage of SharePoint's Content Types (think metadata), Site ColumnsWorkflow, and Security features. Simply put, the corporate governance policy is a set of roles, responsibilities, processes and rules defined within the enterprise to guide content producers in using the SharePoint Portal and all its functionalities. Without a policy that everyone can follow, SharePoint quickly becomes a hodgepodge of unwieldy data. A lack of consistency will result in poor enterprise search and retrieval for e-discovery purposes. Blessing or curse? It's what you make it.

For more information on data mapping, stay tuned to future free webinars similar to this one we offered.

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Comments (3) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
William - April 6, 2009 4:34 PM

Thanks for your thoughtful post regarding data management. You're right, there are many compliance concerns with the SharePoint sprawl, and you hit some critical points, especially regarding governance and policy enforcement. There's a comprehensive white paper available regarding compliance in the broader sense, and how to accomplish this using SharePoint's Native Tools and 3rd party software.

I've also looked into the NearPoint eDiscovery software listed above, but found it lacking with regard to its SharePoint offerings. Simply claiming you store in single-instance format for eDiscovery purposes is not the same thing as having a robust, powerful eDiscovery search dedicated to your live SharePoint environment. As a compliance officer, you wouldn't just want to know about your archived content, but about what is publically available in your SharePoint environment at this moment. AvePoint's offering searches live SharePoint contents, and provides you the option to not just place a legal hold (a task fairly easy to accomplish in SharePoint), but also takes an immutable snapshot and exports the data from SharePoint with all metadata intact to legal storage systems for presentation in court. The last part is a critical concern for any compliance solution.

Barry Murphy - April 27, 2009 2:45 PM

Glad to see this discussion getting started. Full disclosure - I work at Mimosa, but wanted to weigh in as I, too, have in-depth knowledge of the subject being discussed here.
Consistent litigation hold in SharePoint can be complex due to distributed deployments - one area where an archive can really help is in centralizing the litigation hold process. Using a backup snapshot for this purpose will result in over-collection and over-preservation (anyone who has spoken with a general counsel in the last 5 years will know that this is something they want to avoid).
Mimosa can search and discover SharePoint content that has been added to the archive for coarse grain and item level recovery and global retention management. NearPoint also provides eDiscovery capabilities to search active sites and archived content and review blended results in a single view.

Mimosa's eDiscovery technologies are in use across hundreds of customers today leveraging advanced workflow to view search results, create cases and apply item-level holds and tags, and export content in native formats or emerging load files such as those from EDRM.

eDiscovery is not just about search of content, whether active or not; it's about a holistic view of the information lifecycle and the ability to provide tools such as user classification, content and metadata classification for retention management when the records are first created, content monitoring and email alerting tools for information security when the content is in use and in motion. Only when you combine these capabilities with Mimosa's eDiscovery application for search, review and native export can you get at the real issue of eDiscovery - lower the cost of review and lower the cost of collection.

Combined with partners like FTI and PSS Systems for advanced early case assessment and custodian-led workflow management, Mimosa is the only next generation archive that allows end users, records management, general counsel, outside counsel, information security to take a coordinated and holistic view to managing SharePoint content.

Michael Hay - May 26, 2009 1:03 AM

William et al. What I find interesting is the adoption of Sharepoint is largely mirroring what NetApp did with NAS. We in the storage business call this namespace sprawl which is a euphemism for have a lot of siloed NetApps on the floor. You have rightly dubbed this Sharepoint Sprawl and I could not agree more.

Hitachi Data Systems offers a couple of things that can help. The first is Hitachi Data Discovery for Microsoft Sharepoint (HDD-MS). This facility is a light weight webpart that takes Sharepoint content out of the embedded DB and places it in our cloud archiving product, the Hitachi Content Archiving Platform (HCAP), where it can be placed on litigation hold, retention, have capacity optimization treatments, etc. Further HCAP supports full content search and indexing so that if a plurality of Sharepoint sites with HDD-MS are archiving content into HCAP one can effectively search across all of these sites in parallel. The results can then either be put immediately on litigation hold, deleted, or the search result list can be extracted for other purposes like handling a discovery order.

However since I started the discussion about NAS with NetApp I think that it is fair to state that through the Hitachi Data Discovery Suite for NetApp and Hitachi's NAS systems we can provide a view across Hitachi's NAS, all content archived into HCAP -- so that content that I just talked about is searchable -- and NetApp from a single view. Further we can export the results natively to your desktop in a ZIP package for further review, or you can set up a recurring policy to move content from our NAS systems to HCAP for long term preservation and archiving.

If you want to check out more on what Hitachi can offer please take a peak at my file or Enterprise 2.0 category on my blog:

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