July 24, 2009

Enterprise Information Management Issues to Consider in the Convergence of eDiscovery and eCompliance

Karthik Kannan, VP of Marketing and Business Development at Kazeon, just published a very helpful article on SC Magazine's site discussing the convergence of eDiscovery and eCompliance.  As you'd expect, it's a marketing and business development article, so let's get that out of the way early.  But regardless of whichever technology and process solutions one may prefer, I found the following to be an excellent summary of the issues and requirements one is likely to encounter when addressing the litigation readiness, information management, and compliance challenges in many organizations:

Due to the confluence of legal and compliance regulations and IT management issues, the perfect ESI storm has emerged -- and with it, the confluence of both eDiscovery and eCompliance.

Looking forward, these features are necessary for any workable amalgamation of practical eDiscovery and eCompliance initiatives:

  • Enterprise-class scalability and performance. An eDiscovery/eCompliance suite must be scalable to search across hundreds to thousands of terabytes of electronically stored information, as well as scale into the billions of documents, and have the performance to process that data to keep pace with today's information growth.

  • Auto-discovery of data sources - An eDiscovery/eCompliance suite must have the capability to auto-discover informational sources anywhere on the network, since critical data may reside in the enterprise file, storage file server or a laptop in Shanghai.

  • Holistic and Dynamic Organizational Information Map - Since network topology can change rapidly, having a dynamic and active continuous auto-discovery capability is critical for information indexing, internal investigations, litigation procedures and information capacity planning.

  • Agent-less and agent information management - Organizations have enough critical data running on servers, laptops and desktops today. Having the option to run agent-less or agent searches is a critical capability. Agent-less search has a low impact on the IT infrastructure and is easier to deploy. Search with an agent takes longer to deploy, but can deliver effectively on active data sets.

  • Robust search, analysis, and classification - Searching, analyzing and classifying information is a complex challenge. Having a strong analysis and auto-classification capability that can sort large data sets based on metadata, document content, file type, an so forth is necessary to accurately and quickly reduce the volume of data to a relevant and manageable set.

  • Tagging - Automating the tagging of individual content or grouping content into relevant virtual categories with a robust policy-based engine enables administrators to simplify the review and reporting process by delivering a virtualized organizational information overview.

  • Workflow management - After gaining insight into and classifying critical information, bring the "in the wild" data into the ECM platform for workflow management and preservation. With the ability to automate the move, copy, encrypt, and delete actions; an automated policy-based methodology accelerates the manual processes for processing all the enterprise data.

  • Unified management - With billions of documents and petabytes of storage, corporations can easily be overwhelmed by the volume of data. A robust eDiscovery/eCompliance suite must have a unified management view across the entire network and the ECM platform, to simplify operational management.

  • In-place record hold - Being able to tag and hold potential critical information at the source, i.e., server or laptop, is a capability that separates the efficient eDiscovery/eCompliance suite from an unusable one. It is not reasonable to move all potential critical data back to a repository before review. The in-place hold and review and subsequent collection process streamlines and accelerates the process.

  • Enterprise-wide critical information capture - With 80 percent of a corporation's informational assets outside the control of the ECM platform, an eDiscovery/eCompliance suite will need to have the flexibility to identify, access, search, and review information which resides in databases, email archives, servers, email systems and storage systems across the entire network. With an automated workflow policy engine, capture and movement of critical information to the ECM repository can be accomplished on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Certainly some of the points are subject to debate.  For instance, the decision of which information or types of information should be subject to in-place holds is often an interesting and sometimes even a pointed discussion around the table.  Also, while the article doesn't directly mention e-mail archives, many of the above principles would certainly apply.  Overall I found it a helpful list of topics and features to consider when attempting to address enterprise eDiscovery and eCompliance initiatives.

I think it's even more important to remember that capability lists like these are most helpful when taken in the context of building a comprehensive information management and compliance program.  Supporting policies and processes must also be developed to address the specific legal, records management, compliance, IT, and end business unit and users' needs and responsibilities.  The resulting solution needs to make sense in the context of that organization's unique circumstances.  It's in this context that these are excellent items to discuss and from which we can draw valuable insight in shaping those solutions.

Topic(s):   Electronic Discovery  |  Legal Technology
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink

July 09, 2009

Google to Offer Chrome OS – Cloud Computing Tie-in Seems Likely

Setting aside the Mac vs. PC debate for a minute, how about Chrome OS as your next OS choice?  News.com reports that Google is moving beyond its Chrome web browser and Android smartphone operating system, and is actively developing a lightweight PC operating system based on Linux and Web standards for personal computers.  It will also be based on Google's Chrome browser.

More info is available on this earlier report at News.com - that "lower-end PCs called Netbooks from unnamed manufacturers will include it in the second half of 2010. Linux will run under the covers of the open-source project, but the applications will run on the Web itself.  In other words, Google's cloud-computing ambitions just got a lot bigger." (my emphasis added)

There is certainly a lot of buzz surrounding Netbooks and cloud computing, and tech pundits have been talking about the return to thin clients for years.  For better or worse, Netbooks have been the first real manifestation of that prediction for mainstream users, or at least the first commercially successful one.  A lot obviously depends on what Google ultimately delivers to us in Chrome OS, and the integration with their online apps.

As it is based upon Linux, I can see where Chrome OS could also end up as an alternative OS on mainstream PCs, probably set up by users in a multi-boot fashion much like Ubuntu, another Linux OS that's been designed to be more user friendly.  Given the reduced computing ability of Netbooks and the likely phasing out of Windows XP, a lightweight OS such as Chrome could be a compelling Netbook successor - if it offers the right mix of what Netbooks users are looking for.

The Netbook market is a great focus for Google for several reasons.  First, since Netbooks currently lack sufficient computing power to run heavier applications, they are best used as web clients, aligning with Google's online world and business model.

I also think Chrome OS already has too much competition on the mainstream OS front, from Microsoft, Apple, and even other Linux variations.  So far, my impressions are that I have yet to see the Android OS take off as a serious smartphone contender (especially in light of the iPhone and Palm Pre, and new BlackBerry offerings coming from RIM).  I still see the Chrome browser as somewhat of a tech curiosity rather than a mainstream browser, as most people are still using some flavor of IE or Firefox as their main browsers.  That's not to say that Chrome hasn't introduced some nice features, such as tear-away tabs and better stability resulting from improved memory management.  But it's been uniformly criticized as having too few features to compete head-on with leading browsers, an observation with which I tend to agree.

So, given the "less is more" approach of the Chrome browser, I expect the same philosophy in Chrome OS, particularly as it will be based around its browser namesake.  And which computing platforms have capitalized on and appealed to us as "less is more"?  That's right - Netbooks and cloud computing.  Thus I see Google sensing a critical opportunity in the Netbook OS market in the interim between the aging Windows XP Home and whatever is next from Microsoft.  It is an opportunity to tie together two emerging markets that are heavily steeped in the Web - Netbooks and cloud computing - in a way that Google couldn't do as effectively by relying upon others' operating systems.

Google has a long history of making great applications that are particularly easy-to-use, whether they are PC or web-based, including Google Desktop, Picasa, Google Maps, Google Earth, and Gmail.  It will be interesting to see how Google approaches their OS design, particularly with Linux as it can be daunting for non-techie users under the hood.  However, they've certainly had ample dress rehearsal with it in developing the Linux-based Android OS for smartphones.

While it certainly remains to be seen whether Chrome OS will appeal beyond consumers to significant business use, it's always nice to have options, especially in these emerging tech markets where the lines of traditional computing tasks and collaboration tools are being blurred almost daily to generate more value to us, the end users.  From current reports, look for Chrome OS being available on Netbooks in the latter half of 2010.

[7.21.09 Update: eWeek has a thought-provoking slideshow, "10 Concerns About Google Chrome OS", pointing out such interesting tidbits such as Google is not a platform vendor but a Web app developer, and wondering whether any Linux-based OS will ever catch on with consumers as a comfortable OS.  My point above about Chrome OS having too much competition on the mainstream OS front was also mentioned.]

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink

July 07, 2009

Improve Vista’s Performance With Fantastic Free Indexer Gadget

I've been meaning to blog about this handy tool for some time now.  Unless you bought a Netbook or custom ordered your PC online, just about every Windows PC sold within the past two years came preloaded with some version of Windows Vista.  While I prefer Vista's interface and built-in search features to the aging XP platform, Vista definitely leaves something to be desired in the performance department.  I often found my hard drive thrashing at the most inopportune moments, slowing my system down when I needed it the most.  There was seemingly no rhyme or reason for it - until I looked at the system processes and found that the indexer was running amok.

Having indexed files really speeds up performance when you're searching for content on your hard drive - especially when searching within Outlook.  But how often do we do that over the course of a day?  Perhaps just a few minutes or seconds at a time when we're looking for a specific document or e-mail.  The problem is that the rest of the time, we want our apps to launch and run as quickly as possible.

The common cure is to turn off Windows' indexer service altogether, but then you won't be able to search for newly added content since it won't be indexed - which completely defeats the purpose of having an indexer installed in the first place.  Sure, one could use an alternate desktop search tool, but if you're otherwise happy with the built-in Windows search service, it's nice to have it run on your terms.

Enter a fantastic Vista gadget that has significantly reclaimed my system performance and my sanity when using Vista:


BrandonTools offers the Windows Indexer Status gadget, which allows you to:

  • Stop and start the indexing service (this is the best benefit for improving Vista's performance)
  • Monitor the current state of the indexer
  • See how many items need to be processed
  • View the total count of indexed items
  • Open the Indexing Options control panel
  • View the installed Windows Search version number
  • Multiple backgrounds / color combinations

Just so you're aware, if you're running as a standard user account in Vista (which you should for security reasons), you'll need to enter an administrator password when starting or stopping the indexer service (via the "play" and "pause" buttons on the gadget).  This is a very small annoyance to eliminate a much bigger one.  The nice thing is you only need to run the Windows Sidebar when you want to start or stop the indexer service.  Otherwise, you can close the Sidebar to free up memory and increase your CPU performance even further.

It works with Windows Search versions 3.0 and 4.0.  Windows Search 3.0 comes built-in with Vista, and version 4.0 is available as a free download from Microsoft.

Topic(s):   Mobile Tech & Gadgets  |  Trick or Treat
Posted by Jeff Beard   |   Permalink