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Symantec introduced an updated version of its legal discovery suite on Aug. 21, promising new features that further streamline companies’ abilities to meet information reporting demands spurred by lawsuits and other mandates.

Dubbed Enterprise Vault Discovery Accelerator 6.0, the product is meant to integrate with the data storage and lifecycle management applications sold under the company’s Veritas product line.

The package is designed specifically to help companies address the process of retaining, tracking down and turning over electronic documents demanded during the discovery process of litigation.

The newest iteration of Discovery Accelerator promises significant advancements in the areas of enforcing discovery-related policies within messaging systems, archiving legacy data and integrating with other electronic discovery technologies.

Unlike compliance-oriented applications, which have sold primarily into vertical markets affected by major government data protection regulations, such as the medical and financial services fields, so-called e-discovery tools are finding a home in almost every industry, Symantec executives said.

Whereas mandates such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), passed by the U.S. government in 1996, have spurred large-scale investment in data retention and security technologies in the health care field, litigation affects all businesses, creating a giant market opportunity for e-discovery tools, said Nick Mehta, senior director of product management at Symantec, Cupertino, Calif.

“If you look at regulations like HIPAA, they only affect a certain number of companies, whereas e-discovery has universal applicability,” said Mehta.

“We’re also seeing laws being updated to recognize that electronic data now represents the bulk of all records, with more specific requirements for discovery; companies are already looking for ways to become better prepared for the inevitable.”

Specific additions offered in Discovery Accelerator 6.0 include a revamped ad-hoc search function for completing early assessment and production of records that may be demanded during a lawsuit.

Another modification includes enhanced capabilities for companies to tag and enforce policies around data that must be retained or deleted based on its legal sensitivity, and native export of content from e-mail and Microsoft Office files.

Read more here about e-mail archiving vendors bolstering the e-discovery functionality of their products.

Symantec also entered into a range of partnerships to lend outside expertise to its product development and support, including a tie-up with the Minneapolis law firm of Redgrave Daley Ragan & Wagner, which specializes in technology-related discovery.

In another instance, Symantec has signed a pact with Austin, Texas-based RenewData, a data processing firm that will help the software maker integrate customers’ e-discovery efforts with their handling of legacy data repositories, such as backup tapes and optical drives.

The security company also launched a Discovery Partner Program through which it will offer software development tools and data integration capabilities for its Enterprise Vault and Discovery Accelerator products to other companies working in the legal segment.

Among the firms already singed up for the program are MessageGate, Orchestria, Kazeon, Stellent, Interwoven and Hummingbird.

Robert Taylor, chief information officer for the state of Georgia’s Fulton County government, said that the organization has already benefited from its use of Discovery Accelerator since installing the package one year ago, and said his team has enjoyed using the product’s new features in a pilot of the 6.0 version of the software.

For instance, a recent request placed to the Fulton Country operational team by a newspaper seeking research materials for a story took roughly 45 minutes to fulfill, versus the week’s worth of legwork it would have required with the technology, he said.

“This is literally one of the most useful and productive tools that we have in place,” said Taylor.

“We get several open records requests every month, and they are getting more and more complex, which creates some problems; we’ve lowered overhead, the whole system is administered by one person and it’s greatly improved our ability to access the right data faster.”

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