Corrupt Files Can Ruin eDiscovery! Here's How To Deal With Them.

21 November 2023 by Ross eDiscovery Data-Recovery LegalTech

Takeaway: Corrupt files are deadly because they destroy valuable data, and you often find out only at the last moment – right when you most desperately need the files. The solution? Find eDiscovery software that protects your files and alerts you early about file corruption.

Practicing eDiscovery means knowing how to detect corrupt files.

eDiscovery is a critical component of law, especially for attorneys in small and midsize firms. So, corrupt files in eDiscovery can cause significant damage, often leading to delays, increased costs, and potential challenges with evidence. That’s why it’s important to understand what these files are, how they impact eDiscovery, and what we can do to manage them.

Corrupt files represent data that are partially or completely unusable.

Corrupt files are data files that have been damaged or altered enough that their content is either partially or completely inaccessible or unreadable. This corruption can occur due to various reasons like software malfunctions, hardware failures, human errors, and malicious activities. In the context of eDiscovery, these files pose unique challenges as they might be critical pieces of evidence that need to be reviewed, analyzed, and potentially presented in court.

Files get corrupted for many reasons – e.g., mixing files from multiple networks.

Corrupt eDiscovery files result from several factors. First, the sheer volume and variety of data involved in modern legal cases make it likely you’ll encounter corruption. Data is often sourced from multiple environments, including emails, Cloud storage, hard drives, and mobile devices, each with its own risk of corruption. Secondly, there are risks in transferring files or converting them between different formats. For instance, when data is moved from one storage medium to another or converted from one format to another, there’s a risk of files becoming corrupt, especially if the process is interrupted or if the tools used are incompatible or outdated. Lastly, intentional tampering or cyber-attacks to disrupt legal proceedings can also corrupt files.

These corruptions halt eDiscovery relatively easily.

Corrupt files can disrupt eDiscovery significantly. For instance, they make data less accessible and reliable. Key evidence might be locked within a corrupt file, leaving it unusable. And this can lead to incomplete or biased data sets, potentially skewing the outcome of a case. Moreover, legal teams have to invest time and effort in identifying, repairing, or recovering these files, which can delay proceedings and increase costs. Also, if the corruption goes unnoticed, you’ll likely present inaccurate or incomplete evidence in court, potentially ruining your case.

The solution? Pay attention to these signs that files might be corrupted.

It’s critical that you spot and deal with corrupt files early in the eDiscovery process. So, watch for these signs:

  • Unopenable files: If certain files do not open or crash the application attempting to open them, they might be corrupt.
  • Garbled content: Files that open but display garbled or nonsense content are likely corrupted.
  • Unusual file size: A file that is significantly larger or smaller than expected could be a sign of corruption.
  • Error messages: Frequent error messages when accessing or working with a file can indicate corruption.
  • Metadata inconsistencies: Discrepancies in file creation dates, modification dates, or other metadata might suggest corruption.

Once you spot corrupted files, use these steps to manage the situation.

Managing corrupt files in eDiscovery is a strategic and methodical process. Here’s what it involves:

1. Isolate & quarantine the files.

First, isolate and quarantine the corrupted files. This means identifying them (through automated scanning tools or during the review process), segregating them (to prevent the corruption from spreading if, say, it’s from a virus/malware), and storing them securely (to make sure they’re not mixed with good data).

2. Repair & recover salvageable data.

After isolating the corrupt files, attempt to repair and recover them. First, assess the extent of the corruption – e.g., by analyzing file headers, internal structures, or metadata. Then, choose software repair tools tailored to the necessary file types. (You might need the help of a professional recovery service for this.) Finally, thoroughly test the files to ensure they are fully functional and their content is intact and accurate.

3. Document & report the process.

Keep detailed records of all actions you take. This includes logs of when the corruption was detected, steps taken to isolate and repair the files, and any communications with external recovery services. Next, prepare comprehensive reports on the corrupt files as part of your eDiscovery documentation. This should cover the nature of the corruption, the potential impact on the data set, and the outcomes of the recovery efforts. Make sure to consider the legal implications of corrupt files. For example, if certain files are unrecoverable, consider disclosing this to the court and opposing counsel and explaining how you handled the corruption.

Finally, follow these best practices to prevent future data corruption.

The key to preparing for data corruption is to regularly backup all your data. This means creating a regular backup schedule and setting the backup window based on the type of data you’re handling. (If your data fluctuates daily, consider daily or even real-time backups.) Also, store backups in multiple locations. Onsite backups allow quick access and restoration, while offsite or Cloud backups protect against physical disasters like fires or floods. Finally, regularly test the backups to ensure they are complete, and the data can be successfully restored. (Otherwise, you’ll discover a backup is corrupt only when you actually need it.)

All this becomes easier if you have the right software, though.

eDiscovery subscription services like GoldFynch store your data in the Cloud, so you have a decentralized backup system. Also, they auto-check for file corruption when you upload your data. Crucially, they’re easy on the wallet and come with high-speed customer care. Here are some examples of why GoldFynch might interest you.

  • 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?