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The immensity of electronic documents, or why law departments have aggressively tackled e-discovery

Various posts have referred to the in-house discovery groups and organizations that law departments have created in response to the digital tidal wave and the exigencies of e-discovery (See my posts of Feb. 1, 2006 about Altria; Aug. 26, 2006 #1 about Cendant; Feb. 14, 2007 about Halliburton and the Corporate E-Discovery Forum; Oct. 1, 2005 about Marathon; Feb. 14, 2007 and Feb. 25, 2007 about Pfizer; March 23, 2007 about Verizon; and Feb. 18, 2007 about the Corporate Forum.).

Most of us haven’t a clue how much electronic stuff is out there. One of my early morsels tried to convey high 10 gigabytes of documents stacked on top of each other would reach – twice the height of the Washington Monument (See my post of Sept.17, 2005 #5.). Pretty proud of myself, I must confess I was, to make tangible such a huge number.

Take a deep breath, since that was not such a huge number, and ogle these mind-boggling statistics from Scientific Am., Vol. 296, May 2007 at 36, and a study conducted by IDC and EMC Corp. An exabyte includes 1 BILLION gigabytes – how paltry my 10 GB example! – yet in 2006 the world created, captured, and copied 161 exabytes!

If that incomprehensible amount of data were printed in books, the stack would stretch from the earth to the sun (about 93 million miles) some 12 times!! Finally, to give you an exaheadache, the study estimates that in 2007 we humans will generate about 255 exabytes, or almost 60 percent more than last year!!! Law departments take note, although preferably not exabytes of notes.

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