SharePoint 2013 boasts new eDiscovery tools

SharePoint 2013 will have new eDiscovery tools that should make it easier for attorneys to search across multiple SharePoint and Exchange repositories to find the documents they need.

Lawyers and other subject experts can build queries based on the information requested by opposing council and figure out how much content might be included in a request. From there, they can decide how to proceed with the case: whether to fight it or settle it based on the findings.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) officials talked a lot about how this provides a way to put holds on documents--in a way that's fairly easy to do and helps gain some control over the eDiscovery process. But it's not without limitations.

For example, you can only work with SharePoint, Exchange and file share content, and it's highly conceivable that companies have content stored in multiple non-Microsoft repositories across an organization that this tool can't reach.

When I asked Richard Riley, director of technical product marketing for SharePoint, about this, he said Sharepoint wasn't trying to be a comprehensive eDiscovery tool right out of the box, but that it was trying to solve a problem around eDiscovery in its products--and for many Microsoft customers that's a big step forward.

Once the legal staff has put a legal hold on the appropriate content, they can export it as EDRM, an XML standard for eDiscovery data, and combine it with more traditional, stand-alone eDiscovery tools.

One other strange quirk about this eDiscovery tool is that employees will still have access to the held documents in the form of a shadow document. Microsoft officials were not clear about how these working documents would not poison the held ones, but they said it has been designed in such a way that it will allow employees to continue to do their jobs and legal staff to do theirs.

For now, it's a good start in terms of Microsoft-centric eDiscovery, and for many legal staffs, that's a big headache solved. It remains to be seen, however, how well the exported data will work with other programs.

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