You do know where your data is stored don't you?  Of course, companies religiously backup and archive everything but is it easy to lay your hands on it?

We've all heard the horror stories about incomplete backups but the story unfolding at News International could be the story to top them all.

The main part of the tale takes place during the trial of Scottish socialist politician Tommy Sheridan. He won libel damages off one of News International's only for some his evidence to be considered dodgy. The police opened investigations with the upshot being that he stood trial for perjury. Sheridan's defence was that it was a stitch-up by News International and here's where it gets interesting. As part of his defence, Sheridan wanted to see some emails but according to the Scotland News of the World editor, Bob Bird, the mails had gone missing when data was transferred to India. He swore, under oath, that they were lost and that was that for Sheridan who was found guilty and got three years in chokey.

That should have been the end of the matter until last week it was revealed that the cache of emails that were supposedly missing were at News International all along, news that undoubtedly interests Sheridan's legal team that is busy planning an appeal.

There are several interesting factors here. The first is that the discovery of the missing emails only came about because News International were under investigation for breaking the Data Protection Act for transferring data outside the EU - an act that could lead to a heavy fine. 

News International's discovery of the mail archives has saved them from this fate but lead to some uncomfortable moments for Bird as he now faces the possibility that he too could be facing perjury charges.

This is sobering stuff for anyone who thinks that email archiving is a matter of little interest. The plain fact is that more and more governments and watchdog bodies are looking at this. All IT managers and companies lawyers know this but it really hits home when high-profile cases like this reveal an organisation's lack of planning and control when it comes to grabbing hold of archive material.

I spoke to Barracuda's VP of cloud services, Paul Judge, about the problem that News International was faced with and he wasn't surprised at the difficulties that the company encountered. "This is a common problem that organisations have;  most companies are using technologies from 20 years ago. When it's time to access the information, it's not there or it's not readable. What they're doing is using tape, which is a bit like playing music on an 8-track cartridge."


Judge went on to aks what happens to the tapes that have done the backups. " Where do you store those tapes when they’re full? Pick up them in a truck and drive to somewhere off-site? They can get dropped while travelling or damaged. And even if you can lay your hands on the right tape the search interfaces for finding that stuff are very clumsy. If you find the right haystack, you have trouble finding the needle."

Vendors have been warning of problems over archiving for years and the News International case is a prime example of how things can go wrong. It's not clear what happened to the company's email - whether they were lost and re-appeared, whether they were never lost and kept hidden until the right moment. Whatever the truth, it's a fearsome warning to keep archiving up-to-date and invest heavily in a new techno