Deposition Questions for an IT Person

1. To whom at your company do you report?
The following questions may be useful in tracking down sources of electronic data relevant to your case. The broad nontechnical questions are meant to be foundational to the technical ones. Depending on your jurisdiction's limitation on interrogatories, most of these questions can be used in interrogatories, with follow-ups wherever necessary in depositions and requests for production. They also can be adapted/modified for use with an opposing party or other third party.

Personnel

2. Who works directly under you?

3. Does your company have an organizational chart? Who has custody of such a chart?

4. How many people at your company have a direct responsibility for computers and/or networks?

5. What are their job titles and duties?

6. What outsourced services, if any, do you use in the care and maintenance of your company's computer hardware, software, or network(s)?

7. Who at your company is responsible for responding to discovery requests made of your attorney(s) in this case? If you are not that person, what role, if any, did you play in responding to discovery requests made of your attorney(s) in this case?

8. What have you done to prepare for your deposition here today?

9. What documents did you review prior to your deposition here today?

Systems Information

1. Do you use a computer or computers at work? If so, how many?

2. Is the computer on your desk?

3. Do you know the brand name?

4. Does it run on Windows?

5. If so, Windows 3.1, 95, 98, 2000 or NT or others?

6. If not, is it a Unix-based system? Linux? Macintosh? Apple?

7. Are you the only person with access to this computer?

8. If not, who else uses it?

9. If not, who else has access to it?

10. Has this computer ever been used in the past by anyone else?

11. If so, who?

12. Who keeps equipment purchase records, such as for your computer?

13. When and where was your computer bought?

14. Does it have a hard drive? More than one? Do you know what its/their storage capacity is in gigabytes?

15. Do you need to use a password to access the computer? If so, what is the password? How often have you changed that password?

16. Does the computer have a floppy disk drive? A CD-ROM drive?

17. Is your computer capable of saving files on a JAZ drive?

18. Is your computer equipped with software known as Laplink?

19. Is your computer equipped with software known as PC-Anywhere?

20. Is it connected in such a way as to be able to access the Internet and send and receive e-mail?

21. Do you ever backup anything from your computer? If so, how, how often, the times of the last two backups, and on what kind of media (floppy disk, other disk drive, onto the server, JAZ drive, CD-ROM, streaming backup tape media, [other-if so, what?])

22. Do you ever make "personal" floppy disk or disks for copies of files or other data from your computer (workstation)? If so, when? Why? How often? Where are those floppies? How many are at work? How many at home or elsewhere?

23. Do you use a laptop, notebook computer, or personal data assistant such as a PalmPilot, Pocket PC, or other portable computer? How are data moved back and forth between these devices and your computer (workstation)?

24. Do you use a computer at home? [if so, repeat relevant questions above as to type, kind, features, backups, who else has access to it, etc.]

25. Have you received or sent e-mail from your home computer?

26. Have you worked on your home computer for your company?

27. Has your employer paid for all or a part of your home computer?

Network Information

1. Is the computer you use at work connected to a network? What kind of network is it (LAN, WAN, intranet)? If so, do you know what your access rights are? (Translation: level of security to access files, the top access right being "administrator" in most systems.)

2. What is your password to get onto the network?

3. Who else knows your password?

4. Do you know what a server is? [If not, have him/her assume it is the main computer to which all the workstation (client) desktop computers are connected.] Is your computer connected to a server?

5. Is there more than one server in the network?

6. Under what operating system does the server work (e.g., Windows NT, Novell, Unix, Linux)? What version?

7. Do you have a network administrator whose job it is to make sure the network runs properly or who can fix it when it does not? If not, whose job is that?

8. Is there an Information Services or Information Technology department in your company? Who are those people and who is in charge?

9. Is there somebody in charge of doing backups of data from the server? If so, who?

10. Do you know how often the network server is backed up? If not, are you aware of a backup system in place? If not, what is your understanding as to how your company's computer data will be preserved in the event of a disaster, such as a fire, flood, theft, or vandalism?

11. Do you know what kind of backup hardware and software are used? If so, what is the specific hardware and software and the versions of that software? If not, who would most likely know the answers to this question?

E-mail and Software Usage

1. Do you send and receive e-mail from your computer? If so, what e-mail program(s) do you use? [If he/she does not know, suggest Microsoft Exchange/Outlook, Lotus cc:Mail, Groupwise or Eudora as possibilities.]

2. Do you know how received mail is routed in your company? Does your company have document management software to log incoming and/or outgoing mail? If not, is there a policy on how incoming mail is logged and routed? How often do you delete your incoming e-mail from your workstation? Outgoing e-mail? When is the last time you did that? And the time before that?

3. How often do you delete your incoming e-mail from the server? Outgoing e-mail? When is the last time you did that? And the time before that?

4. Do you know if your e-mail is backed up from time to time, either from your desktop computer or from the network server?

5. Have you ever printed out an e-mail message? If so, how often, when, and for what purpose?

6. What word processing software do you use? Is this the same software used by everyone else in the company to your knowledge? Was there at any time a different word processing program used by the company? If so, when was/were the conversion(s) made?

7. Repeat question 6 as to spreadsheet program (such as Excel); database management program (such as Microsoft Access); presentation software (such as PowerPoint); personal information management software (such as Outlook); contact management software (such as Act!).

8. What other software do you use in your work?

9. Do you do your own word processing? If not, who does?

10. Do you maintain your own calendar? If not, who does?

11. If you have a PalmPilot, Pocket PC, or other handheld data device, do you keep your calendar on it? How far does it go back? What other data do you keep on such a device?

Preservation of Evidence

1. Once this lawsuit was brought, did anyone tell you to preserve all of your electronic data and not erase any of it? Since [commencement of this case], have you deleted any files from your computer?

2. Have you been asked by anyone since [commencement of this case] to delete any files on any computer to which you have access, whether at work or at home or elsewhere?

3. Do you know what it is to "defragment" your computer? If so, have you ever run such a program to defragment it?

4. Do you know what it means to "wipe" a hard drive?

If so, have you ever run software that will "wipe" a drive? Where? When? Why?

5. Does your company have a written e-mail policy concerning such matters as prohibited content, statement of who owns the e-mail, expectations of privacy, or any other policy relating to e-mail? If so, how long has that policy been in place? How many times has it been amended? Who is the author of the current policy?

Do you have a copy of the policy?

6. Does your company have a written policy concerning the retention and destruction of paper records? If so, how long has that policy been in place? How many times has it been amended? Who is the author of the current policy? Do you have a copy of the policy?

7. Does your company have a written policy concerning the retention and destruction of electronic records (such as files generated by computers, voicemail, e-mail)? If so, how long has that policy been in place? How many times has it been amended? Who is the author of the current policy? Do you have a copy of the policy?

8. Does your company have a disaster recovery plan?

Third-Party Sources of Information

1. Are there places outside the physical location of your company where you regularly send e-mail or other electronic files, such as a parent company, subsidiary, outside consultants, government entities, investors, other parties to this case [hereinafter "outside entity"]? If so, to whom, when, and why?

2. Who are the persons at [outside entity] who regularly send you e-mail? What are their functions and what purposes does each person's e-mail serve (i.e., in terms of their job functions)?

3. Have you seen what kind of computers the [outside entity] uses?

4. Can you estimate how many computers there are there?

5. Are they networked?

6. Does the [outside entity] direct you or otherwise expect you to use compatible software?

7. [If foreign entity] Do you know how much of what they generate internally is in English and how much is in [foreign language]?

8. Do you know how received mail is routed in the [outside entity]? Does [outside entity] have document management software to log incoming and/or outgoing mail? Do you have such software? If not, is there a policy on how incoming mail is logged and routed? Does this policy come from [outside entity]?

9. Have you ever been told by anyone in [outside entity] that they did not receive mail you had sent them? Has lost mail been a problem expressed to you by [outside entity]?

10. Who besides you receives e-mail from the [outside entity]?

11. Besides e-mail, have you ever exchanged documents in electronic form between your company and the [outside entity]? If so, have you ever done so by attaching documents to e-mail? Any other way?

12. Are faxes routinely sent back and forth between you and [outside entity]?

13. Is there a fax log of these incoming and outgoing faxes?

14. Do you have such a log? If so, how is that log maintained and by what software?

15. In sending or receiving a fax between you and [outside entity], has there ever been a fax sent electronically, i.e., from a computer without use of paper? Is that the typical way faxes are sent? (if appropriate: If not, what if anything explains why sometimes a fax would be sent electronically and at other times by paper?)

16. Have you received any e-mails from [outside entity] concerning this case?

17. Have you been told by anyone at [outside entity] to do anything with information in your possession or to which you have access, such as to preserve it, destroy it, or anything else?

18. Have you received or sent e-mails from/to anyone in [outside entity] in the last ___ years?

19. Have you deleted from your office or home computer(s) any of that e-mail? If so, what and when?

20. Do you have a secretary or assistant who prepares documents for you? Does he or she have a computer? [If so, you may want to repeat questions above about type of computer, whether networked, types of software used, configuration and features, whether he/she keeps duplicate or backup files from his/her computer.]

21. Does your company have voicemail? Are voicemails stored and retained? Do you receive voicemail from time to time from [outside entity]?

22. What is the most often-used medium of document exchange between [outside entity] and you: e-mail, fax, regular mail, or something else?

23. How frequent are your communications with [outside entity] (i.e., daily, once a week, monthly)? Has there ever been a significant period of time (i.e., for more than ___ weeks) when there was no communication between you and [outside entity]? If so, was that due to technical problems of any kind, such as computer system failures?

24. Do you have any communications with [outside entity] through use of collaborative software, such as "whiteboarding" over the Internet with something like Microsoft's NetMeeting, or through use of a Web site where people can meet via the Internet and share ideas and thoughts?

25. Is there a site on the Internet where you and [outside entity] post and share information?

26. Is there a site not on the Internet (such as an intranet or extranet) where you and the [outside entity] post and share information?

27. Does [outside entity] have a Web site? If so, what is its Internet address?

28. In conjunction with this lawsuit, has anyone at [outside entity] asked you to look for records or otherwise supply information, either in paper or electronic form? If so, what documents, when, and for what stated purpose?

Storage

1. Where are backup tapes stored in your company (physical location)?

2. What security measures are in place to protect unauthorized access to those tapes?

3. Are backups kept on anything other than tapes?

4. What person or persons have custody of those tapes?

5. Who makes the backups? How long has that person been doing that? Who did the backups before that person?

6. What is the brand name and type of backup tape?

7. Are the backup tapes labeled? If so, what information is kept on the labels?

8. Have any backup tapes ever been destroyed, erased, or altered, to your knowledge? If so, when, where and why?

Other Lawsuits

1. Has your company ever produced electronic data to another party in a lawsuit? If so, in what matter? What data was produced? In what format was the data produced (e.g., CD-ROMs, floppies, printouts)?

2. To what party or parties was that data produced?

Was any of the electronic data used at trial? In support of any motions?

3. What was/were the caption of that case/those cases, and filed with what court(s)?

Retired Hardware

1. What is the usual lifespan of a computer at your company?

2. Is there a practice of computers used at one echelon of the company (for example, top management) migrating to other employees in the company as newer equipment is purchased?

3. What happens to computers and/or their hard drives when they are retired from service?

4. How many computers from _____ to ______ were retired from service, given away, or sold? Who could answer that question? What would you call such records?

Encryption and Legacy Data

1. Is encryption (encoding of data that prevents accessing it without a proper decoding or decryption software or hardware key) used in any of the following:

  • e-mails
  • data stored on servers
  • data stored on backups
  • data generated by any software application
  • other

If so, state the type of encryption used, the name(s) of any software used, the level of encryption, and for each instance, how the process for decryption of the data works.

2. Do you maintain electronic data on backup tapes, archive tapes, hard drives, or otherwise, for which you no longer actively use the software to read the data on those storage media? [This question is meant to elicit information about "legacy data," electronic data on such old software programs as WordStar, VisiCalc or Wang.] If so, do you still have the old software and user manuals? Who in your company would know how to recover that data? FA



Alexander Lubarsky was elected to the California State Bar Law Technology Executive Committee in 2003. He is a certified trainer and regularly teaches litigation support. A frequent guest speaker at numerous legal technology conferences and state bar events across the U.S., Alex has authored articles for legal technology publications such as Law Office Computing and The Bottom Line.

Published in Family Advocate, Volume 29, No. 3, Winter 2007. © 2007 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.

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