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Defensible Deletion—or Retention?

To Keep or Not To Keep: That is the Question.

These days, it seems like everywhere you turn, someone is talking about “defensible deletion.”  Myriad webcasts empanel experts to discuss it, companies ponder how to accomplish it, vendors tout products they promise will do it, and even analysts are giving credence to the idea that products must be built to enable it.  Why, we’ve spoken about it ourselves a few times in this very blog.

That’s because it’s getting just too difficult to avoid. With exponential growth in the amount of information being created by business, strategies that rely on retaining company data in order to avert various business, regulatory and legal risks are coming under greater scrutiny as logic dictates that the less information you have, the less it will cost you to maintain and search through if you ever have litigation come your way.

But what is defensible deletion really?  What does it mean to “defensibly” delete?  As it turns out, the best way to think about defensible deletion is to not to think about deletion, but about retention.  If a company knows what it needs to retain and they take reasonable measures to retain it, it becomes defensible to dispose of everything else.

Most companies have an obligation to retain certain information for one reason or another. Regulatory compliance is one reason. Litigation hold is another. And most companies feel that there are certain other types of information important to the business that should be retained in order to operate effectively.  Information in the latter category should be carefully considered and well-defined. Everything else can—and probably should—be deleted.

It’s no mean feat to define and corral information that should be retained at a time when information is anywhere and everywhere, and there are many companies and consultants that make it their business to help companies define and codify what they need to retain.  That’s a big piece of the picture, to be sure, and not much can happen in the way of defensible disposal if that’s not nailed down. But knowing what you need to retain is one thing; coming up with an effective method of separating the wheat from the chaff is quite another.

Since defensible deletion is really about retaining what you need and the secure disposal of what you don’t, there are several challenges to consider in getting from where you are today to where you would like to be. Over the next several weeks, I will be blogging on topics related to defensible deletion including:

  •  Identifying and overcoming barriers to get the ball rolling
  •  Selling the “disposal” idea within your organization
  •  Defining what you need to keep so you can dispose of the rest
  •  Creating an effective automated process for identifying what you need  to keep (or dispose of)
  •  Available technologies to deploy and how to decide what’s best for your organization
  •  How do you make it all defensible?

Stay tuned. More to follow.


 describe the imageJames Wolf leads H5’s Information Governance practice. In that capacity, James manages new business development with leading corporations, law firms, and strategic partners pertaining to records retention, legal-hold management, preservation for litigation, and defensible data disposition. James has over 20 years of technology and legal industry experience, spanning software engineering, product development, IT, marketing and business development.

To hear James’ perspective on defensible deletion, view the H5-Jordan Lawrence webcast:

Getting to Defensible Deletion – A Roadmap for Legal and IT

This expert panel also includes Julia Brickell, Executive Managing Director and General Counsel at H5 and Conor Crowley of Crowley Law Office to address the legal considerations, and Robert Fowler of Jordan Lawrence to explain how to develop defensible rules.


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