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The eDiscovery Paradigm Shift

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Navigating eDiscovery in the Cloud Shouldn't Be That Difficult

In a follow up to my Blog post titled, "eDiscovery in the Cloud: The Sky Is Not Falling", this Blog post is dedicated to the premise that successfully navigating eDiscovery in the cloud is not as complicated as many are indicating it should be or as complicated as many are making it.

Successfully navigating the brave new world of eDiscovery in the cloud is really just a matter of education and a willingness to move beyond the status quo.  There is no doubt that if you don't pay attention, you and your team will perish on the rocks. However, don't pass on taking the eDiscovery in the cloud journey because it is too dangerous or give up before you at least make an attempt to learn how to save your ship.

First of all, in case anyone missed the memo, the cloud train has left the station.  As an example, independent research firm Forrester Research predicted in a research report published earlier this year titled, “Sizing the Cloud” that the global cloud computing market would reach $241 billion in 2020 compared to $40.7 in 2010.  So, more than likely, whether you want your data in the cloud or not, it is moving quicker than you think.  And, as an end-user, unless you have some kind of cloud storage phobia, it really shouldn't matter that much.  The real debate doesn't start until you couch the question(s) about cloud computing in terms of what happens when your have to perform the delicate and often times messy operation of eDiscovery in the cloud.  If you are a glutton for punishment and like to dwell on all of the negative things that could possible happen in the life then I encourage you to read "The Promise of the Cloud Meets the Obligations of E-Discovery", published on the website on October 12, 2011 by Brendan M. Schulman and Samantha V. Ettari.  This article does a great job of indicating that the sky is falling and that we are all doomed.  However, as I indicated in the my response to this piece, "cloud computing has already made it and most of us are just fine, eDiscovery in the cloud and all!!"  But, the devil is always in the details and therefore what does this mean in practical terms?

Further, please note that if you are currently doing a bad job of eDiscovery in general, you had better read the Schulman and Ettari article as the sky is going to fall if you attempt to perform eDiscovery in the cloud under your current practices. Once you have completed reading that article and if you still want a road map for successful implementation of eDiscovery in the cloud, come back and finish reading this blog post.

What is eDiscovery in the Cloud?To properly perform eDiscovery in the cloud,  you first have to understand what it is and, probably more importantly, what it is not.  The current crop of litigation technology vendors have done a great job of confusing the market in regards to eDiscovery in the cloud.  However, I believe that over the next 12-18 months, the market will become much more educated and some amount of consensus will begin to form regarding a more realistic and concise definition of eDiscovery in the cloud.

eDiscovery in the cloud is NOT uploading all of your potentially responsive ESI to a litigation service provider's data center and then accessing that ESI via the Internet to perform searches and document review.  That may be Early Case Assessment (ECA) or document review delivered under a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model.  But, it is not eDiscovery in the cloud.

Likewise, eDiscovery in the cloud is NOT manually collecting big chunks (that's a technical term) of potentially responsive ESI from your cloud provider and the performing eDiscovery with that ESI the same way you process ESI from your corporate network or from unconnected desktops and laptops (BTW - I am in the process of investigating the nightmare of collecting ESI from your cloud provider and plan to author a Blog post of my findings before the end of the year.  So, if anyone has any input, send it to me and I will consider including it in my post).

eDiscovery in the cloud ultimately means having a virtual eDiscovery process that actually runs in the cloud right alongside of your cloud storage and allows you to perform, Early Case Assessment (ECA) including First Pass Review, possibly preservation and legal hold management, definitely forensically sound collection and the generation of an industry standard load file and/or full on document review and production.  In addition, eDiscovery in the cloud also means that you can operate these processes remotely through an Internet based user interface and don't have to have operational bodies physically inside the cloud data center(s) to perform any of the normal magic that is currently required by many of the legacy hosted eDiscovery platforms. 

Further, eDiscovery in the cloud should also include what I am going to call (for lack of a better term at this point) federated eDiscovery to enable an organization to "perform eDiscovery" on data no matter where it resides.  Currently, users that are supported by competent IT organizations, don't have to worry about where ESI is physically located.  Therefore, eDiscovery professionals shouldn't have to worry either.  This would include ESI behind the corporate firewall, housed with different cloud service providers or housed with the same cloud service providers in different data centers potentially in different countries (don't get me started on the debate regarding the legal issues with moving ESI in and out of countries as that is the topic of a future Blog post). Please note that I am not oblivious to the challenges of moving large amounts of data around.  However, we all might be surprised to learn that class 5 rapids have been successfully navigated in other industries.

Is this Definition Realistic
This definition of eDiscovery in the cloud may sound like something that only Scotty, the engineer from the Star Trek Enterprise, could cobble together with technology from the next century and a good amount of duct tape.  However, the technology exists today and is ready to be utilized with little or no duct tape required.  Therefore, the only real speed bumps on this journey will be convincing the cloud service providers to install the appropriate eDiscovery technology as a standard part of their technology stack, enlisting a new generation of eDiscovery consultants to support the development of best practices for eDiscovery in the cloud and finally to show the market that eDiscovery is no longer a reason to NOT move your data to cloud.  I realize that these are not insignificant roadblocks.  However, providing eDiscovery as a standard part of it's technology stack is a homerun for cloud service providers and the associated services represents a blue water/green field market opportunity for eDiscovery consultants and possibly service provides. Therefore, resistance should be minimal and buy-in should be quick.

What's Next?
In the coming weeks I will be releasing my initial list of eDiscovery technology vendors that can support my vision of eDiscovery in the cloud along with an initial overview of the best practices.  If anyone has any input that you believe should be included in these upcoming Blog posts, send them to me and I will consider including them.

In the mean time, if you are concerned with moving your data to the cloud and are hesitant because you are concerned about eDiscovery or if you are currently faced with the daunting task of extracting your ESI from a cloud service provider, contact me as I can help you successfully navigate your way through this paradigm shift.

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