by Tyler Haney

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As the computer age advances, law firms and corporations are constantly faced with the challenge of managing electronically stored information (ESI). Keeping an archive of files and emails can be good to some degree, but it can be costly to store everything – and a mountain of data can be a burden in a lawsuit. But rest assured: your data can be defensibly deleted.

Defensible deletion is defined by the American Bar Association as “a comprehensive approach that companies implement to reduce the storage costs and legal risks associated with the retention of electronically stored information (ESI).” It is crucial in helping organizations avoid court punishment while eliminating ESI that has little or no business value. Here are five things you need to know about defensible deletion.

1. Establish a Process

Defensible deletion shouldn’t be cumbersome, manual or time-intensive. Outlining a retention/deletion policy and creating a process to ensure that unneeded records can be removed in a responsible manner and short amount of time. It may involve a software platform or leveraging people – or a combination of the two – but there should be a regimented process in place.

2. Remember Litigation Holds

Bear in mind that items under a legal hold should not be deleted. If it is, counsel could find itself facing sanctions. Thus, it is important to be able to easily and quickly identify items under a lit hold and keep them as long as the hold is in effect. Additionally, there should be a way to know when the hold has ended so the data can be deleted in accordance with your established process.

3. Hire the Right Employees

Even if you have litigation hold software, it doesn’t run itself. It’s vital to have employees dedicated to implementing the software and ensuring the right data is kept or discarded—it should be a core function of their job.

4. Map Your Data

It is critically important to have a data map – including information stored offsite and on mobile devices – so that you can know what information you have. If you don’t know something exists, you run the risk of deleting important information or of not deleting it at the appropriate time, making it collectible.

5. Be Proactive

Remaining proactive about the defensible deletion process is crucial. Organizations and employees need to be prepared for the inevitable changes in the industry—it is much easier to stay ahead than to play catch-up. Plus, you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where important data has been deleted, which could potentially result in sanctions. Also, as the information age advances and companies grow, the requirements for defensible deletion will change, meaning that an organization needs to be capable of changing their deletion process accordingly.

For information on designing and implementing a complete Information Management policy, check out this white paper.

 

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn on March 24, 2015.

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