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Intro to eDiscovery in SharePoint, Exchange, and Lync 2013

​Like many organizations, yours probably has a vast amount of data in the form of email messages and electronic documents. Not only do you have lots of email and documents, but you also probably have other types of content such as social data, instant messages, and webpages. There are significant legal risks associated with preserving, searching, and producing this data when legal events occur. How do you search this content and export it into a format you can hand off for eDiscovery requests? How can you provide your users with the best collaboration technologies while protecting your business? The new eDiscovery capabilities in SharePoint Server 2013, Exchange Server 2013, and Lync 2013 do just that.

In case you are not familiar with eDiscovery, it is the process of finding, preserving, analyzing, and producing content in electronic formats as required by litigation or investigations. Now you can save time and help reduce your legal risk with In-Place Hold, near real-time search, and the ability to handle more types of content. We have built on our eDiscovery work in SharePoint 2010 and Exchange 2010 by enabling you to perform eDiscovery across SharePoint, Exchange, Lync, and file shares—all from one location. You can help protect content in SharePoint and Exchange by using In-Place Hold, identify and reduce the amount of content with eDiscovery queries, and export the results into an offline format you can hand off for legal review.

Here is a quick overview of eDiscovery with SharePoint 2013, Exchange 2013, and Lync 2013:

  • In-Place Hold: Protect content in-place and in real time with higher fidelity and reduced storage costs, without affecting the daily work of your users.
  • Query: Get up-to-date, relevant content and statistics quickly to help you answer questions fast. Export: Transfer relevant content out of the system into an offline and portable format.
  • More content: Preserve, search, and export documents, email messages, OneNote files, webpages, community posts, microblogs, Lync IMs, and more.

SharePoint 2013 introduces the eDiscovery Center site collection, which has features to help with the first half of the eDiscovery Reference Model (EDRM)—identification, preservation, collection, processing, and analysis. The eDiscovery Center is available on-premises and in Office 365 and can be connected to Exchange so you can do eDiscovery across SharePoint, Exchange, and Lync content archived into Exchange. In the eDiscovery Center you can create eDiscovery Case sites, which are used to organize in-place holds, queries, and exports for a particular case. The eDiscovery Case site is designed for in-house legal teams to perform their eDiscovery work.

The home page of the eDiscovery Case site 
Figure 1: The home page of the eDiscovery Case site

Using In-Place Hold to preserve data

Our customers have told us that when a legal event begins there is often a need to make sure that potentially relevant content that may be evidence is not modified or destroyed. Content is spread across many different locations including email servers, file shares, content management systems, and user’s computers. Previous versions of SharePoint were a challenge for eDiscovery because there are many types of content, such as pages and lists, which are difficult to export into an offline copy. SharePoint 2013 makes protecting content easier with eDiscovery Sets, a new feature used to identify Exchange mailboxes and SharePoint sites, group them together, apply filter criteria, and put the content on In-Place Hold. 

The eDiscovery Set page is where you can manage In-Place Holds for Exchange mailboxes and SharePoint sites. 
Figure 2. The eDiscovery Set page is where you can manage In-Place Holds for Exchange mailboxes and SharePoint sites.

With In-Place Hold, users can continue editing and deleting their content while, behind the scenes, the system ensures the original versions are retained for eDiscovery. The metadata and context of each item is retained because it is kept in place.

In-Place Hold:

  • Preserves content in place, including blogs, wiki pages, microblog content, archived Lync instant messages, email messages, calendar items, contacts and much more.
  • Helps reduce your risk by broadly protecting content (SharePoint sites and Exchange mailboxes) quickly, rather than spending weeks or months making copies of all of the content that might be relevant.
  • Helps reduce your storage costs by preserving only content that is edited or deleted, and by entering filters to reduce the amount of content you keep under hold.

Identifying relevant data using queries

Legal review can cost thousands of dollars per gigabyte, so reducing the amount of content you hand off for legal review is an important part of the eDiscovery process. The new eDiscovery Query page helps you identify and reduce your data set by using keyword syntax, property restrictions, and refinements. The query experience focuses on statistics for individual sources and query fragments to help you make decisions about the content you are searching across. You can also preview SharePoint and Exchange content to make sure you have identified the right set of results. 

The Query page enables you to identify relevant content with keywords, refiners, and statistics. 
Figure 3. The Query page enables you to identify relevant content with keywords, refiners, and statistics.

The eDiscovery query experience helps you reduce your content set to the relevant items you care about, with a focus on statistics and preview. Here are a few key features and examples:

  • Proximity search: For example, wingtip NEAR(30) marketing identifies results where “wingtip” is within 30 keywords of “marketing”
  • Exchange domain filtering: For example, return all results with @contoso.com
  • Search across Exchange, Lync content archived into Exchange, SharePoint, and file shares from one search page
  • Get query statistics break downs, to see how parts of the query would contribute to your result set

Exporting data

One of the biggest eDiscovery challenges when dealing with SharePoint and Exchange is getting the data out of the system in a portable offline format. This is a concern both on premises and in Office 365. Exporting is now as easy as clicking a few buttons. After you finalize your query, you can click the export button, select a few options, and then download the search results directly to your local computer. Using our export, you can remove duplicate Exchange content, include document versions from SharePoint, and even include unsearchable items (items that have had indexing errors).

Export makes it easy to download your search results from Exchange and SharePoint whether the data is on premises or in Office 365.   
Figure 4. Export makes it easy to download your search results from Exchange and SharePoint whether the data is on premises or in Office 365.

An Electronic Discovery Reference Model XML manifest is included in the export to provide metadata about the exported items. After export:

  • Exchange content, including archived Lync content, is stored in PST files.
  • SharePoint content and file share content is downloaded in the native format.
  • SharePoint pages are captured as MHT files.
  • >SharePoint lists are stored as CSV files.

After you have completed your export, you can import it into popular review tools or hand it off for legal review.

Wrapping up…

The new eDiscovery capabilities have three advantages to help you get the job done when you need to handle legal investigations:

  1. In-Place Hold—You can preserve and search across content in native stores. This is faster, easier, and provides higher fidelity than the processes in use today. Plus, with our in-place approach, you can reduce the storage space you use.
  2. Near real-time search—Because we use the built-in search system of SharePoint and Exchange, content is always up-to-date and you can run searches anytime. You can get answers in minutes by searching across live and up-to-date content.
  3. More content—You can preserve, search, and export OneNote files, webpages, communities, microblogs, Lync IMs, Lync meetings, and more.

SharePoint 2013, Exchange 2013, and Lync 2013 help you reduce your legal risk and save time. Now you have the tools you need to quickly respond to legal requests, so you can protect your organization without getting in the way of your users.

To get started, you can create an eDiscovery Center site collection and then create eDiscovery Case sites. Getting everything hooked up with Exchange requires some configuration—check the TechNet article Plan for eDiscovery in SharePoint Server 2013 to help you get started.

Thanks for reading, let me know if you have any questions.

Quentin Christensen
Program Manager, Enterprise Content Management