Monday, August 15, 2016

Storage, SSD’s and the Future of Court Records

A recent article stated “SSD prices plummet again, close in on HDD”.  Translated that means that solid state “flash” storage that runs much faster than traditional hard disk drives (HDD’s) is closing in on price parity.  But what does this mean for court records?  We discuss and speculate below.


As you know, courts love our records.  And we also want to keep everything.  So much so that a court CIO friend once showed me his new large storage array and proclaimed; “he would never have to delete a record again”.

Regarding SSD's and HDD's, the simple fact is that it is getting cheaper and safer to store digital information.  And because of that, it is also possible to make lots of cheap copies of that information. It is also the reason why cloud storage has become so economical.

But one new major concerns of court records managers and CIO’s is the explosion of video evidence that will come from law enforcement.  And while storage is both more plentiful and cheaper, more can be collected.

So what is a court to do?  I think we have to be smart about what to keep and not to keep. And yes, that will mean deleting things.  But I also think that there are technology, processes, and procedural approaches that can help.

First, I would say that one part of the solution is to revisit their records retention and destruction plan. I would guess however that many of you that do have a plan it is for paper records.  And the good news for those of you who don’t have a plan, you have waited long enough that the old rules don’t necessarily apply.  The US National Archives ( have done a lot of work on these issues and are a good starting place to look.

Second it is not enough in the future for court records to only have the image of a document or photo. The documents must be searchable or at a minimum, tagged for content.  Photos too need tags such as date, time, and subject.  (photo archive standard?)  And why has this not been done to date? Because it required human intervention.  Machine learning is quickly replacing this requirement. For example, please see this article from the Christian Science Monitor about Google Photos.  Machine learning is also greatly improving optical character recognition and handwriting recognition.  And I think that cloud services will in the very near future greatly expand the ability for courts to economically use these compute intensive services.

Third, we do need to actually use the time code that is embedded in the digital audio and video recordings by connecting them with our case management systems records.  In fact, the entire functional area of evidence management needs to be reviewed and redesigned especially now that we are expanding into the judge’s e-Bench.

And fourth, we need to look at all manner of storage both in the local data center but also at government archives and in the commercial cloud.  All of these require a reliable and robust security encryption capability.  In fact, if you do nothing that I have listed above in this article, please get serious about digital encryption technology for your court.  There are plenty of vendor’s … big ones… that can help you with this.

I’m sure there are more items on the list so please feel free to share your ideas in our comment section below.


  1. A couple of additional resources relating to this topic from the Joint Technology Committee of COSCA and NACM:

    1. A paper and corresponding webinar titled "Developing an Electronic Records Preservation and Disposition Plan"

    2. A paper titled "Managing Digital Evidence in Courts"

  2. I could not agree more; but, I will add - the number of service providers for Court and legal environment content management systems is increasing daily and the abilities of smaller, more specialized, providers is consistently out classing the 'big' boys that are most often protecting their market share with out dated legacy tech. The real innovation is coming from disruptive firms making quantum leaps.