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Three Questions with Surety CEO Tom Klaff

January 24, 2008

We’re starting a new feature here at the Power of Proof blog that will give our readers industry insight direct from those shaping the field. The “3 Questions” series starts today with Surety’s own CEO Tom Klaff and will continue with a new thought leader every month.

1. 2007 saw a lot of changes and maturation in the records management space. What do you think 2008 will bring for the space?

I actually think record management is evolving rather than “maturing”. In fact, the majority of companies today (small, medium and large) do not “manage records” inside of expensive electronic record management systems but rather, “keep records” through fairly rudimentary business processes and policies. Most companies do not use sophisticated taxonomies and content addressable search and storage techniques to manage and retain their records, even if they do operate in regulated and litigious markets. Rather, they focus on, and invest in, their core business and do their best when it comes to backing up corporate records to tape, or shipping boxes of paper records to warehouses…even in today’s digital world.

In 2008, I think you’ll see record management applications and processes for the mass corporate market, thanks in part to Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server (MOSS). At a fraction of the cost of the major ECM applications on the market, now, most SMB organizations can afford and deploy Sharepoint to do the blocking and tackling needed to manage, retain and access strategic corporate records. I emphasize strategic because I see 2008 being a seminal year where most General Counsels, Record Managers, CISO’s, and Risk & Compliance managers view corporate data as a strategic asset. Why? For one thing, it is nearly 14 months since the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) were amended and codified. There has been much education and learning about what the FRCP means to organizations, especially how they manage their electronic records during normal business operations. As a result, with seminal court cases like Best Buy and Lorraine v. Markel, corporate managers will be more proactive in 2008 to adopt rigorous litigation readiness techniques to preserve and prove the integrity of the native files they must generate, manage, store and ultimately, produce, should a lawsuit or regulatory audit materialize.

2. There’s been a lot of talk about the chain of custody in electronic discovery. Is this really something people should be worrying about?

Actually, chain of custody is an age-old “burden of proof” issue in record management, paper or electronic. In the electronic record management process, because data can flow freely among desktops and servers, both inside and outside the corporate firewall, and because data can “live” – for years – through IT personnel turnover and system upgrades, the burden of proving its authenticity is extremely difficult. Electronic records, unlike paper records, have metadata and, though a trained eye can detect a forged signature on a paper copy, it is far more difficult to detect whether an electronic document or its metadata are authentic without transparent, independent and reliable proof. Lawyers are getting more sophisticated on challenging electronic record management processes, including the systems, people and the technologies used to preserve integrity throughout the chain-of-custody of a document. In the past, many lawyers believed that because an electronic document was generated by a computer, it must have the necessary integrity to pass the hearsay rule. Now, over 95 percent of all corporate records are electronic and, with freely available desktop publishing software, anyone with a PC and a motive has the capacity to alter a document and lie about doing so. Without the proper detection tools, there isn’t a single thing you can do about it.

3. Surety had an exciting 2007 with the launches of AbsoluteProof Desktop and FolderSeal. What are you doing to carry that momentum into the new year?

Similar to how Sharepoint is bringing record management to the corporate masses, we are bringing data integrity software to all types of organizations.
Now, a solo practitioner, a corporate department or an entire enterprise can subscribe to our AbsoluteProof service through pre-configured software modules. They can seal all electronic records they generate, manage and store for litigation readiness or corporate compliance purposes. Our modules connect PCs, network share drives, enterprise content management systems, email servers, scanning devices – basically anything that generates, manages and stores data – to our AbsoluteProof service where we provide long-term, independent, portable and transparent proof that our customers’ records, including their email, CAD drawings, legal contracts, spreadsheets, etc. have never been altered.

Taking a page out of the anti-virus market, we’re doing the following to continue our momentum:

(1) Try-and-Buy – Anyone can try our service for a free, no-strings-attached 30-day trial and seal as many documents as they want. If they never subscribe, they can still validate their sealed documents indefinitely at no-charge;

(2) Easy Purchase & Deploy – We allow our customers to purchase and download our software directly from www.surety.com;

(3) Low Annual Subscription Price – Similar to how one pays for anti-virus software, we charge a low per seat annual subscription;

(4) Campaigns to the Microsoft Community – We are marketing directly to the Microsoft community because our modules are integrated into MS Office, MS Exchange, MS Windows and MS Sharepoint with no need for customization; and

(5) New Modules in our Pipeline – We are developing modules that connect the AbsoluteProof service to archive software applications and services, scanning devices and other other applications that generate, manage and store electronic records.

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