by Sarah Thompson*, Senior Product Manager, Zapproved Inc.
Microsoft Office 365: On the rise in enterprises
The adoption of Microsoft Office 365 is making a stratospheric rise. According to a 2016 Gartner survey, 78% of the enterprises surveyed indicated that they are using or planning to use Office 365, up from 64% in mid-2014. This article will take a look at what e-discovery functionality is available in Office 365, what is not, and what organizations should consider when corporate legal departments are defining defensible e-discovery processes when adding Office 365 to their electronically stored information (ESI) landscape.
A quick overview of the native e-discovery capabilities in Office 365
Microsoft offers e-discovery functionality through their Office 365 Security and Compliance center. However, even with the robust functionality of their offering, there are still some considerations that legal teams must keep in mind when defining their e-discovery processes to ensure defensibility. Office 365 provides different levels of e-discovery functionality based on the license type. E1 licenses have no e-discovery functionality, E3 licenses offer the Security and Compliance Center which allows enterprises to perform preservation holds, search, and export data based on date and keyword. E5 licenses add Advanced Discovery to the Security and Compliance center which is a fully featured early case assessment (ECA) tool with export functionality to review platforms. This technology comes from Microsoft’s Equivio acquisition. This a high level overview of what each tier offers, but it is not definitive. Organizations should take the time to fully research what Office 365 offers as it evolves, so that they make educated decisions regarding which licensing bundle best meet their needs..
Not a one-size-fits-all e-discovery solution
Office 365 offers functionality around security and compliance and it allows administrators to create preservation holds that preserve the data in place without having to perform a collection. Office 365, however, does not manage nor automate legal hold notifications and custodian acknowledgements. Office 365 cannot tie a custodian’s hold to the preservation of their data which introduces risk for spoliation. Additionally, as enterprise data sources expand from on-premise networks and computers, to a compendium of new cloud sources such as storage solutions like Box or Dropbox, and cloud applications like Salesforce or Desk, and social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin, corporate legal has an increasingly difficult and complex environment to manage. Office 365 does not have an elegant way to handle outside data sources and corporate legal teams will find conducting e-discovery with a mix of legacy and new data sources onerous and inadequate to meet defensibility standards.
Factors to consider for efficient and defensible discovery with Office 365
Corporations should assess the native Office 365 e-discovery functionality and determine what works best for their requirements and their budgets, then they should define their processes with defensibility in mind. Defensible processes are ones that are integrated into the e-discovery solution and fully trace each step from the beginning to the end of the litigation process. Enterprises should not limit nor define their e-discovery processes based uniquely upon the native e-discovery functionality included in Office 365 and what it can do for data that resides within the Office 365 ecosystem. Enterprises should look for a solution that complements Office 365’s Security and Compliance center and allows legal teams to easily manage and automate many critical steps of the legal hold workflow; preservation, collection, and review of Office 365 data alongside non-Office 365 data sources in one centralized platform.
Following are four factors that corporate legal teams should consider when defining e-discovery processes and selecting a solution that will be defensible to help them efficiently manage litigation response:
1: Ease of use
Administering access and permissions to Office 365 accounts can be complex and can require IT to manage. For corporate legal teams who are seeking control over their processes and are looking to improve efficiency, ease of use is a compelling factor. While ease of use is often overlooked, it is extremely important in ensuring that e-discovery processes are consistent, adopted, and observed. Corporate legal departments should look at how they manage all the steps of the EDRM from legal hold through production for all of their ESI sources and define a unified process that streamlines their workflow and puts control over the process in the hands of the in-house legal team.
From a logistical point of view, accessibility impacts the e-discovery process and overall workflow. For example, can the right personnel do the work with the existing solution? How difficult is it to share access to systems internally? Are additional licenses required, which will add cost? Are their complications to giving access to internal systems to outside counsel, who are not company employees and will not be a part of the organizational set up? These questions need to be considered as enterprises define processes and determine the right solution that best meets requirements.
Integration looks at the ease with which a team can move through each stage of the process from notification, to preservation, to targeted collection, and to review. For example, with an integrated solution corporate legal can send a legal hold notification and the system would automatically manage the in-place legal holds to preserve the data and automatically confirm the status of preservation — mitigating spoliation risk and improving process efficiency.
4: ESI Sources
In the future, data sources are going to continue to fragment, with more data going to the cloud. Additionally, on-premise data and other legacy sources are not going away anytime soon. Realistically legacy data will not migrate to Office 365 which makes consolidating ESI from multiple sources a huge requirement for many enterprises due to their desire to limit cost, and create a focused and consistent ediscovery process that is more defensible.
Managing e-discovery in an Office 365 world
As organizations define their processes and choose their tools, they must focus on continual improvement and execute with their available resources, ESI sources, process, and budget in mind. Monitor Office 365 and other e-discovery tools for new features, functionality and pricing. The cloud is continually evolving and corporate legal teams should monitor changes proactively so they can ensure their processes meet their e-discovery needs.
For defensibility, organizations should complement their use of the Office 365 Security and Compliance Center with a solution that empowers legal teams to initiate preservation in Office 365 directly from a legal hold notification, perform forensically sound collections from anywhere, and to send collected data directly to a cloud-based processing and review platform for efficient and consolidated review of multiple sources of ESI. Creating consistent processes from start to finish not only makes legal teams more efficient because they do not have to support multiple processes, but can also reduce corporate risk of spoliation.
*Sarah Thompson is Senior Product Manager for Data Collect Pro, the cloud-based collections software of the ZDiscovery platform. Sarah brings a wealth of e-discovery and collections knowledge to guide corporate legal departments towards innovative and modern collection approaches. Her career includes senior product management positions at LexisNexis, Dataflight Inc. and iCONECT Development, and Cumulus Data.
Zapproved Announces Z-Discovery CloudPreserve for Microsoft Office 365 Data
Earlier this week Zapproved announced it has launched the new Z-Discovery CloudPreserve module. Z-Discovery CloudPreserve is e-discovery software unique in its ability to reduce risk for corporations managing legal hold notifications, preserving cloud data in-place, and making data preservation defensible across Microsoft Office 365 data sources including: Exchange, SharePoint, Skype for Business, and OneDrive for Business. Now legal teams in corporations using Office 365 can send, track, manage, and report on legal holds and preserve-in-place with one streamlined workflow.
Zapproved is collaborating with Microsoft on technology solutions surrounding e-discovery, and through this alliance, Zapproved has developed Z-Discovery CloudPreserve. The newly developed Z-Discovery CloudPreserve enables Zapproved’s widely adopted and award-winning Legal Hold Pro to automatically communicate in-place hold instructions to Microsoft Office 365 data sources. The cloud-based software empowers in-house lawyers to manage litigation hold and preservation processes defensibly without having to tap IT resources.
“Companies are moving to Microsoft Office 365 in growing numbers to reduce cost and improve efficiency. These organizations need an e-discovery software that is designed to efficiently support cloud data sources,” said Brad Harris, VP of Product Strategy, Zapproved. “Corporate legal teams can now automate crucial ‘next steps’ when managing custodians and legal hold notifications. With Z-Discovery CloudPreserve, data in Office 365 sources is automatically preserved in place — keeping data in the cloud and not disrupting employees’ work routines. By removing manual processes, the legal team is assured a simpler and more efficient workflow that reduces the risk of inadvertent spoliation.”