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Like Google, but for companies drowning in data Index Engines' software can help limit legal exposure, its CEO says

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From left, David Ballard, vice president, CEO Tim Williams and Jim McGann, vice president.
From left, David Ballard, vice president, CEO Tim Williams and Jim McGann, vice president. - ()

Index Engines is helping companies locate hidden needles in ever-growing haystacks.

The Holmdel informational technology company acts like Google, but instead of searching the Web for song lyrics and cat videos, it creates software that allows companies to mine through their own mountains of data accumulated over many years. Companies using its software can sort, organize and, in many cases, delete obsolete data that takes up massive space and can sometimes turn into a legal liability.

"If you are storing information inefficiently, which is just about everybody; if you're getting sued, which is just about everybody; you need the tools to manage your data," co-founder and CEO Tim Williams said.

For years, Index Engines, founded in 2004, has served litigation support companies with products that assist with e-discovery, or the exchange of electronically stored information in civil trials. Common examples are locating years-old e-mails thought to be deleted.

The company on May 7 launched a new data-profiling engine, which applies the same principles, but more broadly, to larger corporations seeking to actively manage comprehensive data.

"Why is it you can find stuff off the Internet so easy," Williams said, "but your own stuff, you can't find?"

Index Engines serves the pharmaceutical, financial services, energy, manufacturing, and government sectors. Clients include News Corp. and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

The privately held company does not disclose annual revenue, except to say it is more than $10 million.

Optimistic about growth opportunities, Index Engines Vice President Dave Ballard is blunt in describing the consequences of stockpiling data beyond its usefulness.

"Half of what you have is garbage," Ballard said. "But (companies) don't have the tools to deal with it. The response has been overwhelmingly positive."

Greg Lastowka, law professor at Rutgers–Camden specializing in intellectual property and Internet law, said it's inevitable that companies like Index Engines fill such voids.

"It all makes sense that a third-party provider would come in and provide these services," Lastowka said. "A lot of the servers weren't built originally to have search engine functionality for these data troves."

The company said it seeks to distinguish itself in a market where many businesses sell more storage capacity, rather than ways to streamline. Thus, companies err in favor of preserving data, which becomes harder to organize as it accumulates.

"The entire market is helping you cope with it, not to help you get rid of it," Ballard said.

That's both inefficient and leaves a company vulnerable to lawsuits, said Bruce Radke, who chairs the records management, e-discovery and data privacy practice group of the Chicago law firm Vedder Price.

Radke has used Index Engines products to assist financial services clients. He is considering purchasing Index Engine's new data-profiling engine, as well.

"Folks do a real good job of storing information," he said. "They do a less stellar job of getting rid of no-longer-used information, either because it has no useful business purpose for maintaining information or there is no legal requirement for maintaining that information."

Index Engines said no company facing litigation wants to be seen as purposely destroying information, but neither does any company want to needlessly preserve outdated information that can legally be used against it.

Radke said the most common request from clients is retrieval of old e-mails, something Lastowka said is time consuming and costly.

"If you get an e-discovery request to produce all e-mails in your system about a particular issue — if you have five or 10 years of e-mail stored, but you have no way of indexing that information, it can be very cumbersome," Lastowka said.

Radke said old data needs to be culled better because sensitive information, such as employee health records or trade secrets, can be compromised if it lands in the wrong hands.

Then, there is corporate efficiency.

Jonathan Rudolf, e-discovery manager at C.R. Bard Inc., a medical device company in the Murray Hill section of New Providence, said common practice is to take data stored on servers and convert the information onto backup tapes.

But Index Engine's software "allows us to go in, and with a few clicks, figure out what you have and get out of there," Rudolf said. "The amount of time you save is tremendous."

With business growing, Vice President Jim McGann said Index Engine plans to add staff. The company employs about 50 at its Holmdel Road headquarters, and hopes to add about 25, mostly in engineering and sales.

Believing its search tools represent an idea whose times has come, Index Engines is confident about its prospects.

"The cost savings, in addition to preventing risk and liability, is a perfect storm for us," McGann said.

E-mail to: tomz@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @biztzanki

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