General counsel have long privately expressed nervousness over their data storage arrangements and an information management survey published today (24 July) suggests they have good reason.

Global records giant Iron Mountain and market intelligence group IDC, which surveyed 1,011 members of senior and executive management involved in data archiving in organisations of over 500 employees, found that just 12% of companies have a uniform process to identify what data gets archived, meaning 88% of companies may face difficulties identifying and accessing important information when they need it.

Legal departments within mid-to-large sized companies across a number of sectors, including banking, manufacturing, healthcare and IT were the least satisfied with their ability to access archived data. Just 48% of legal departments said they were satisfied, while 45% said they were frustrated that there was no defined process to retrieve archived data. Forty percent of legal departments said they were frustrated that IT often fails to locate the information needed.

The report said: “There are major organizational disconnects related to archive accountability and lines of authority, particularly between IT and the legal and compliance departments. Legal and compliance are heavy users of data archives for critical purposes such as responding to regulatory audits, accessing data for eDiscovery and early case assessment, and finding information to substantiate legal positions. The same groups, however, are critical of their company’s archiving strategies, see less business value in the archives than IT and lines of business and tend to be dissatisfied with IT’s overall management of the archives.”

The report concluded: “There are many challenges preventing companies from realizing the full business value of archived data. Archiving schemes require attention to structured and semi-structured data, as well as unstructured content. Often, organizations have different levels of maturity in each area. To become successful, enterprises must develop competencies in managing all data types.”

Iron Mountain has been in negotiations to buy Australian data storage company Recall Holdings, last month increasing its offer to A$3.4bn ($2.6bn) including debt, according to a report by Bloomberg.