With ediscovery moving front and center into standard litigation methods, an increasing number of corporations are starting to be proactive about the possibility of future data mining. There are several private programs out there which can keep records of company communications, but they tend to be cost-prohibitive for small and midsized businesses. Recently, Google has released a cloud option which is less costly than other programs and may put ediscovery “insurance” within the financial means of smaller organizations. Yet is Google Vault really the perfect answer it seems to be on the surface?
About Google Vault
Google Vault is designed to keep an inviolable record of emails and IM conversations which cannot be altered from the user end. Although individuals may delete their own records, the original interaction will be preserved by Vault in its unaltered form, safely stored for potential future ediscovery needs. This cloud-storage based solution seems like a great idea initially. However, when looking a bit deeper, the complications of Google Vault become rapidly apparent.
The primary problem with Vault is that it is proprietary, and only works with other Google apps. This means that in order for Vault to be truly effective, a business would have to require that all employees use Google’s email applications, documents, and IM chat system. This means mandatory compliance with all the glitches and bugs which are already inherent in those apps, regardless of how many superior alternatives are out there. Using Google’s products alone may be overly restrictive for the needs of the typical business; their potential will be capped by the limitations of Google’s latest gadgetry.
Since many business already use an internal email structure, shifting all communications to Google is a complicated prospect. For those not already using Google’s products, the changeover to the Google Vault ediscovery system will not be cost-effective. Employees will be forced to use apps which they may be unfamiliar with or reluctant to use; the learning curve will hamper productivity.
Improper or inconsistent use of Google products will result in patchy record-keeping, rendering the whole system ineffectual.
In order to ensure the usefulness of Vault, companies would need to not only require all employees use Google products, but also place set policies and guidelines in place to ensure they are being used properly. Not only that, but they will need some sort of accountability tracking in place in order to determine, in the case of ediscovery, that the policies and procedures were being followed correctly at all times.
The proprietary nature of Vault neglects to take into account the many informational tributaries that exist. Vault offers no protection for documents used in non-Google systems, let alone any documents used offline. Let’s face it: it’s a pretty rare operation that uses one lone platform to accomplish all the nuances of their daily business. Additionally, the per-user pricing structure makes Vault absurdly expensive for larger companies.
Finally, many questions regarding the possible pros and cons of Google Vault remain unanswered. For example, if ediscovery is invoked, how will the documents and other information be retrieved from the Vault in any kind of organized fashion? How powerful are its search and retrieve functions? Above all, will Vault records be able to reveal one of the most important elements in litigation: who had what documents, what did they know, and when? Until these questions have satisfactory answers, we think the idea of Vault for ediscovery is a no-go.