Electronic discovery is the detection of information in the digital format. Electronic information is retrieved from computer-based systems such as hard drives, CD ROMs, floppy disks, tapes and other electronic backup devices that may contain data. It involves the use of certain technologies that enable easy and consistent extraction of valuable data.
Today, there are millions of pages of electronic data that are being transferred through thousands of systems across the world every minute. The onset of electronic mailing systems, instant messaging and other online programs has made data transfer very fast and easy. In this process, there is the possibility of the data being lost or tampered with. Electronic discovery systems help to retrieve even lost or altered data as per user requirements. Electronic discovery can be used for any kind of data retrieval, such as document recovery, data recovery, evidence recovery and so on.
User files, backup media, spreadsheets, CAD/CAM/CAE and graphics, personnel records, policy and procedure manuals, software and source code, internet and intranet content, internet service providers, fax servers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), telephone /security / network activity systems, cell phones, pagers, voice/video mail and special databases such as CRM or ERP databases are the typical sources of data. Electronic extraction has to be done by professionals using proper tools, so that the information, especially the meta-data of the document, remains intact. Once the documents are extracted, they are processed through de-duplication.
Electronic discovery has its pros and cons. Rising levels of electronic data storage, expensive lawsuits and strict laws such as Sarbanes-Oxley, which require corporate archiving, are some of the reasons for the increasing use of electronic discovery. Information gathered from electronic sources can be used in litigation that can make or break companies. There are special software programs that enable easy and efficient retrieval of any kind of data from anywhere. There are some companies that specialize in providing electronic discovery services.
Some of the top providers of electronic discovery services are: Daticon, Electronic Evidence Discovery Inc., Kroll Ontrack Inc., Renew Data Corp, ZANTAZ Inc, Applied Discovery Inc., Fios Inc., Ibis Consulting, KPMG and SPI Litigation Direct. The top software programs in 2004 were: Concordance (Dataflight Software Inc.), Summation (Summation Legal Technologies Inc.), CaseMap (Bowne DecisionQuest (CaseSoft)), Access (Microsoft Corp.), Attenex (Attenex Corp.), Encase (Guidance Software Inc.), iConect (iConect Development), Introspect (ZANTAZ Inc.) and LiveNote (LiveNote Technologies).