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Social media is no longer just for the rest of us. As we’ve reported previously, industry after industry, no matter how regulated, wants to reap the benefits of social media without the burden of social media. Social collaboration is sexy. Records management isn’t. The same goes for e-Discovery. It’s only been in the past year or so that we’ve seen vendors within the e-Discovery space really tackle the issues that social media brings into the enterprise. Until then, they only predicted about its influence.

Nothing perks up a Friday like delving into the underbelly of the enterprise in an effort to reveal and analyze the growing impact of cloud computing and social media on electronic discovery. Thanks to a report released by Clearwell Systems, conducted in conjunction with analyst firm Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), we can do just that.

More Anticipated Applications, More Social Media

The survey, Trends in E-Discovery: Cloud and Collection, gathered responses from more than a hundred Fortune 2000 enterprises and government agencies, and showed that cloud-based applications defined as in-scope for e-discovery practically doubled in the past year, from 30% in 2010, to 60% for 2011. Still, only one quarter of respondents deemed their organization truly prepared to handle e-discovery requests involving the cloud. Prior need for e-Discovery seems to drive their unpreparedness, reinforcing the reactive, rather than proactive approach when companies consider e-Discovery.

Yet, of those who anticipate discovery of cloud-based applications in 2011, 58 percent of respondents expect to manage social media applications as part of e-discovery, compared to 27% in 2010. When asked what types of social media applications would be the most relevant for e-discovery, 79 percent named Facebook, followed by Twitter (64 percent) and LinkedIn (55 percent).

More Challenges, More Solutions

What this all means, of course, is that by adopting cloud and social network content generation in the enterprise, serious implications for e-discovery arise. According to the report, creating content outside the control of IT governance creates “challenges when companies actually have to identify, collect, and preserve information stored in the cloud.”

But we know about the challenges -- after all we’re confronted with them on a daily basis. What we want to know is how to overcome them. Fortunately, Clearwell has some ideas. First, they recommend that the enterprise needs to get in control of e-Discovery. A majority of respondents (93%) intend to bring some portion of e-discovery in-house over the next year -- and many plan to in-source multiple phases of the process.

To prepare, specific and appropriate adoption plans need to be considered and implemented. Consider this: sixty percent of respondents said that their current primary method of managing legal hold was manual tracking through spreadsheet. Egads!

Not only should companies consider more sophisticated methods of automating legal holds, companies must also consider the bigger picture for their litigation needs, including dynamic and evolving IT trends, and factor them into decisions about e-discovery technology investments.

More Benefit, Less Burden

The survey’s most useful lesson takes a cue from social collaboration. It says “implementing an effective strategy relies on knowing how users are using social media and the management policy that best suits the organization.” Exactly. Communication is key when it comes to educating the masses about compliance, discovery and the implications they hold.

By knowing the policy, how it’s enforced and how it affects the overall outcome, companies and its employees can begin to reap the benefits of more proactive planning for information management, without the burden of high costs and increased litigation.