Microsoft’s Office 365 Features E-Discovery Updates

    Jun 22, 2016

    Microsoft recently released new updates to its Office 365 Security & Compliance Center (SCC) e-discovery features that are designed to help reduce the time it takes to conduct investigations and to resolve legal and regulatory issues.

    The SCC now features case management controls and an expanded set of search capabilities to help businesses locate critical information for lawyers and regulators. The case management option allows users to work on cases without leaving the software and can be used to link compliance searches with a case, put holds on content sources, and determine who has access to a specific case, according to a report by

    According to eWeek, the Office 365 eDiscovery Case Management Hold feature preserves data in content sources, preventing tampering or deletion while conducting a case. Investigators can search Office 365 groups, OneDrive for Business sites, SharePoint sites, and mailboxes. Microsoft said the feature operates in the background, making documents and e-mails accessible to users while saving them for future searches and exporting.

    "You can export the results from searching tens of thousands of mailboxes – up to 100 GB of data in a single PST [personal storage table file] export," explained the company in a May 17 blog post. "The ability to search all mailboxes in the organization and export the results in a single PST export, versus multiple PSTs, helps our customers collect email in an extremely useful format for broad investigations."

    Microsoft added that the enhanced export option also keeps SharePoint document metadata intact and supports two-factor authentication for added security.

    As for e-discovery searches, users can search everything from a small number of sources to an entire organization. Access to searches conducted as part of a case now can be limited to only those who are involved. Businesses can reduce the volume of data to review with the Advanced eDiscovery features, which can reconstruct e-mail threads, find near-duplicate files, and reveal important data relationships, according to eWeek.

    Many of the world’s biggest organizations use Microsoft’s Office software, so Microsoft providing native e-discovery capabilities as part of the popular platform is a big plus in a highly regulated, litigious business world. Microsoft has hinted that more e-discovery capabilities are coming soon.

    At present, some legal professionals have a few cautionary notes to offer. Although features will continue to be added, it is worthwhile to pay attention to some of the current limitations, as pointed out by the Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists:

    • Cloud storage capabilities will develop over time and may create new forms of electronically stored information (ESI) important in the discovery process. Office 365 e-discovery capabilities may lag behind these developments.
    • A review of the contract with your cloud provider may be advisable to ensure your organization’s ability to properly place a legal hold on ESI in the cloud.
    • As you contract with Microsoft, be aware that there are varying levels of e-discovery services available at differing price points. Know what you are buying and how the pricing model works in your business context.
    • Keep in mind that Office 365 won’t cover all of the possible sources of ESI in your organization. Don’t let your e-discovery efforts fail by assuming everything is covered.
    © 2017, ARMA International