Finding and Getting Rid of Non-Critical Data

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Finding and Getting Rid of Non-Critical Data

We spend a good deal of time identifying data critical to our business and protecting it. We spend very little time identifying data that we don’t need and which shouldn’t be kept around.

There are two reasons to winnow out stored data. The first, almost too trivial to mention, is to have less data to store. The really significant reason is that data that does not exist cannot be subpoenaed during discovery. This can be very significant in a lawsuit, as discovery can be a costly drain on a company, requiring the work of clerks, accountants, computer people, attorneys, transcribers, and managers. This is work and cost that could simply be avoided if the data is not available. As an example, in many companies all data on all servers and all workstations is automatically captured daily, and daily, weekly, and monthly backups are saved for various lengths of times, often years. While these backups should contain all the valuable data, they often simply contain all the data, no matter how nonessential. This means that a company may be required to produce and transcribe every piece of e-mail sent within some extended time period. This is the very problem that Microsoft is suffering at this time. With e-mail, people tend to toss off whatever ideas and comments are on the top of their brains at that moment. Moments of indiscretion or poorly chosen words can haunt a person or a corporation forever. At the time of discovery it is too late to get rid of this data: You are legally obligated to produce it, and any attempt to destroy data can cause serious problems. However, if the company has a formal written policy regarding data storage, and only that data which should be recoverable is stored, there is neither problem nor conflict.

We therefore urge all companies to develop a written policy identifying both critical and non-critical data, and procedures to protect critical data and to destroy non-critical data.

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