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7/7/2009
09:24 AM
George Crump
George Crump
Commentary
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Placing Former Employees On Legal Hold

Legal hold is a term used to set aside certain data to make sure it is not altered while a legal case is being settled. One of those situations is employee termination. The chances are there for the employee to file a wrongful termination lawsuit and for the data center that means placing exiting employees' data on legal hold.

Legal hold is a term used to set aside certain data to make sure it is not altered while a legal case is being settled. One of those situations is employee termination. The chances are there for the employee to file a wrongful termination lawsuit and for the data center that means placing exiting employees' data on legal hold.Recent changes to federal regulations mean that you have to be predictive about this data, and that anything you expect to come under legal scrutiny in the future has to be considered and secured. Since the chance clearly exists for an employee to file a wrongful termination suit against an organization, storage managers must act accordingly and capture the data that the employee was storing on their laptop or desktop as well as on servers and email. Being able to prove that data had not been altered may also serve to protect the organization as well.

During an employee exit most organizations are very careful to follow all of the needed steps from a Human Resources perspective except one, that employees' data from their desktop or laptop. You need to capture that information and do so quickly, basically have a need for instant retention.

Instant retention means with or without an existing data retention policy you have the ability to capture the user's data and are able to retain it in such a way that you can prove that no one altered the data. This is going to require an archive system that is easy to access and has WORM capabilities.

The ability to easily capture this information in a near instant manor is critical because IT may not get much notice that this is going to happen, you may get the email while the employee is on their way to their exit interview. It is ideal that you capture the information at this point, before the employee or anyone else has a chance to modify or delete anything on the system. As a result you may not have the time to install archive software on the user's system if it is not there, or even get to the system other than to log into it.

Disk archives, as we discuss in our article Disk Archiving Basic's are ideal here. They appear on the network as a simple mount point and data can be quickly copied from the user's laptop into a folder on the archive. Into that archive if you want you could copy all pertinent system information; PST's of their email for example.

The next step would be to lock this information down. The ability to create write once read many (WORM) volumes or file systems is ideal for this. There are two types; a compliance WORM means that the data is locked in that format until the whole volume is deleted or an Enterprise WORM that allows you to lock down the volume or even a specific folder within that volume for a certain period of time.

If the archive supports Enterprise WORM just this folder can be set to be in a WORM mode for the time suggested to protect the organization from a wrongful termination case. Then this retained information can be set to a read/write mode or even safely deleted if that is allowed or required.

Unfortunately terminations are going to happen in organizations and having a policy of placing exiting employees on legal hold is smart protection for all organizations.

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George Crump is founder of Storage Switzerland, an analyst firm focused on the virtualization and storage marketplaces. It provides strategic consulting and analysis to storage users, suppliers, and integrators. An industry veteran of more than 25 years, Crump has held engineering and sales positions at various IT industry manufacturers and integrators. Prior to Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation's largest integrators.

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