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Managing Preservation Obligations: Data Spring Cleaning

It is easy for data to pile up. In an era of seemingly limitless cloud storage and complex legal preservation requirements, organizations do not face the same incentives to defensively delete data as when file cabinets were overflowing with paper.

While having an optimized preservation program is fundamental to managing a legal department’s cost and risk, here are two high impact, low friction projects that organizations can take to jumpstart data spring cleaning in 2021, even while pandemic-related travel restrictions and social distancing remain in place:

“Garage” Clean-up

Is there a room at the office filled with post-it-labeled laptops, phones, or other old devices? Maybe this room is informally called the garage, the locker room, or the cave? No matter the name, this is where IT assets have piled up because it can be unclear whether the data needs to be preserved for legal. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, these evidence rooms have likely become more crowded as organizations have relocated or downsized and, with more employees working from home, devices are not being returned to local IT help desks for proper processing.

Instead of letting devices pile up, legal departments can proactively help IT by determining what data needs to be collected and then allowing IT to repurpose the devices. Imaging and repurposing devices saves the business immediate costs and mitigates the legal risks of over-preservation or not being able to access relevant data in the future.

This spring cleaning is made up of several core steps, which can be performed largely remotely and in advance of a larger workforce return to the office. Here is an easy checklist to follow:

  • Create an inventory of devices

  • Verify legal hold collection needs

  • Collect data remotely (removing the need to travel onsite or ship devices offsite)

  • Release devices for IT re-use

  • Centralize data storage and evidence management tracking

Prevent Over Preservation (POP) Analysis

In addition to any physical “garage” spaces, it is equally important to perform a spring cleaning of potentially large sets of unstructured data, including SharePoint sites, Microsoft Teams channels or other collaboration stores, or old school company/department network drives and databases, which could be overflowing with unneeded data.

Like the steps for the “garage” cleanup, unstructured data can be inventoried and searched most often remotely, allowing legal and business teams to separate what data should be preserved from what to discard. With the goal of Preventing Over Preservation, it is often most useful to perform this POP Analysis before migrating systems or before buying more storage for legacy data. If your unstructured data is overdue for a spring cleaning, a lot is likely ready for deletion.

In addition to spring cleaning efforts, please visit our website to learn more about UnitedLex Preservation Services.

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