Why Your Business Will Suffer If You Don't Prep For eDiscovery
Takeaway: eDiscovery affects all businesses – big and small – so start embracing the processes and tools involved. Remember, preparing smartly now will save you from unfixable complications later.
Small business owners often assume eDiscovery is a legal process they can afford to ignore.
In an increasingly digital world, eDiscovery (Electronic Discovery) isn’t something that only affects large corporations or tech-savvy firms. Yet, many small business owners assume that eDiscovery is something they can afford to ignore. And this is a fatal flaw because not preparing for eDiscovery opens you up to multiple risks – from legal vulnerabilities to financial pitfalls.
The thing is that eDiscovery is more than just a legal term.
eDiscovery is a complex process built around reviewing electronically stored information (ESI) for litigation. (ESI includes things like emails, text messages, audio files, databases, and even social media interactions.) This ‘discovery’ of evidence in a case started as a paper-based process but now has been digitalized into a cornerstone of contemporary law. And it can be broadly categorized into six main stages:
- Identification: Identifying sources of relevant ESI.
- Preservation: Ensuring the data is not deleted or altered.
- Collection: Gathering the data for further analysis.
- Processing: Organizing and filtering the collected data.
- Review: Examining the processed data for relevance to the case.
- Production: Providing the relevant ESI as evidence, following legal guidelines.
This is why eDiscovery affects all small businesses. And yours will suffer if you aren’t prepared.
eDiscovery means outsiders poking into the daily happenings of your business. So, if you don’t have the right data available, you’ll likely suffer in multiple ways. For example:
1. You’ll leave yourself legally vulnerable.
The digital footprint of a small business is often complex and diverse, consisting of emails, customer databases, internal documents, and more. Further, legal disputes or issues can arise in different contexts – with suppliers, employees, or customers. So, unless you’re set up for eDiscovery, you’ll likely mess up one of these components and have to face an unfavorable outcome.
2. You’ll face fines and sanctions.
Compliance with eDiscovery requests isn’t optional. Failure to do so can lead to severe financial consequences like sanctions and fines. For small businesses, which often operate on tighter budgets, these financial setbacks can be crippling. So, proactively preparing for eDiscovery is generally more cost-effective than implementing measures hastily after facing a legal threat.
3. Your daily activities will likely be affected.
When faced with a legal request for ESI, the lack of an eDiscovery strategy can severely disrupt normal business operations. And all the time and resources spent on locating and organizing relevant information will take away from your core business activities.
4. You’ll be at a competitive disadvantage.
Inadequate eDiscovery readiness can put small businesses at a competitive disadvantage. In an age where data management is critical, businesses that can’t comply with industry regulations will lose out on opportunities to businesses that can.
5. You’ll risk your reputation.
Small businesses frequently rely on community trust and word-of-mouth for their success. Legal missteps can quickly erode this trust, causing irreversible damage to your business’s reputation.
Thankfully, there are a set of steps you can take to prepare your businesses for eDiscovery.
eDiscovery is complex, but you can start easy. Here are some basic steps to consider.
1. Conduct an ESI audit.
An ESI audit is a foundational eDiscovery step where you create an inventory of all data sources within the organization, ranging from cloud storage and server files to mobile devices and third-party applications. It’s not just about listing where the data is stored but also about identifying the types of data each source contains, whether it’s customer records, financial information, internal communications, etc. It’ll help to consult IT personnel at this stage. They can identify less obvious data repositories and recommend best practices for data storage and retrieval. Note that an ESI audit should also evaluate who within the organization has access to each type of data. This is crucial for safeguarding data and defining roles and responsibilities for eDiscovery. Remember, a comprehensive ESI audit provides a roadmap that informs the rest of your eDiscovery planning, making this step indispensable.
2. Create a data retention policy.
Once you understand your ESI landscape, the next step is to implement a data retention policy. This policy will serve as a guideline for how data should be handled throughout its lifecycle. Working with legal advisors and IT specialists is crucial here as they can help tailor the policy to your legal and operational needs. The policy should clearly cover what types of data need to be stored, where they should be kept, how long they should be retained, and the procedures for secure deletion. (For instance, financial records may need to be stored for a certain period for tax purposes, while certain employee communications might be disposable almost immediately.) The policy should also establish clear timelines for data storage and deletion, reducing the risk of deleting things too early or storing them for too long – both of which could have legal implications.
3. Train your employees.
Employee training is often the most overlooked aspect of eDiscovery preparation because even the best data retention policy is useless if your employees don’t know how to implement it correctly. Training should cover the basics of eDiscovery and dive into the specifics of your company’s policies and procedures. Using real-life scenarios or role-playing exercises can help employees understand how to apply these principles practically. But training shouldn’t be a one-time event, and it needs to evolve continuously based on new legal precedents, technological advancements, and changes in internal business practices.
4. Choose the right tools.
The right eDiscovery tools are a game-changer, and they’re way faster (and more accurate) than trying to do everything manually. So, start by identifying your specific needs based on your ESI audit and data retention policy. Then, compare available solutions based on these requirements, as well as other factors like cost, scalability, and user reviews. Some solutions even offer trial periods to test their capabilities. This might seem like a lot of work, but it’s worth it. Remember, the right tools can streamline eDiscovery, making it more efficient and reducing the risk of human error – thereby potentially saving you from costly legal consequences.
If you’re looking for an affordable eDiscovery service, consider using GoldFynch.
If you’re overwhelmed by all this information and just need reliable eDiscovery software that’s easy to use, try GoldFynch. It’s an eDiscovery subscription service with essential document review tools at an affordable price. Customers love GoldFynch because:
- It costs just $25 a month for a 3 GB case: That’s significantly less than most comparable software. With GoldFynch, you know exactly what you’re paying for: its pricing is simple and readily available on the website.
- It’s easy to budget for. GoldFynch charges only for storage (processing files is free). So, choose from a range of plans (3 GB to 150+ GB) and know up-front how much you’ll be paying. You can upload and cull as much data as you want as long as you stay below your storage limit. And even if you do cross the limit, you can upgrade your plan with just a few clicks. Also, billing is prorated – so you’ll pay only for the time you spend on any given plan. With legacy software, pricing is much less predictable.
- It takes just minutes to get going. GoldFynch runs in the Cloud, so you use it through your web browser (Google Chrome recommended). No installation. No sales calls or emails. Plus, you get a free trial case (0.5 GB of data and a processing cap of 1 GB) without adding a credit card.
- It’s simple to use. Many eDiscovery applications take hours to master. GoldFynch takes minutes. It handles a lot of complex processing in the background, but what you see is minimal and intuitive. Just drag-and-drop your files into GoldFynch, and you’re good to go. Plus, you get prompt and reliable tech support (our average response time is 30 minutes).
- Access it from anywhere, and 24/7. All your files are backed up and secure in the Cloud.
Want to find out more about GoldFynch?
For related posts about eDiscovery, check out the following links.
- A Complete Glossary of Essential eDiscovery Terms
- A Quick Primer on GoldFynch’s eDiscovery Software
- How to Download eDiscovery Data Remotely Using ‘eDiscovery Collect.’
- A Free PST Analyzer to Check If Your eDiscovery PSTs Are Intact
- Use This In-Browser PST Viewer to Explore Your eDiscovery Emails For Free
- The Secret to Choosing the Best Low-Cost eDiscovery Software for Your Small Law Firm
- How To Make Your eDiscovery Productions Less Hackable
- Is Social Media the Future of eDiscovery?