Eight C’s of E-Discovery in the Cloud: While some are still hesitating about migrating skyward, there are good reasons why this seems inevitable

The adoption of cloud applications is growing across enterprises worldwide. According to Gartner, by 2020 more than 30 percent of the 100 largest enterprise applications will have shifted from cloud-first to cloud-only – encouraging any enterprise fence-sitters to move in the direction of the cloud. And government agencies are on an even faster path to cloud computing.

Are law firms and corporate legal departments the last holdouts in a sea of change? There is still some lingering hesitation. However, as legal teams increasingly experience and understand the advantages – outlined in the eight C’s below – forward-thinking organizations are making the transition to cloud-based e-discovery.

1. Confidence Up, Barriers Down

In the abstract, the cloud can sound mysterious and risky. But most of us have some experience using cloud applications, and legal professionals are becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of working in the cloud (think Microsoft Office 365, Google Drive, Salesforce.com and Skype for Business, to name a few). As confidence grows around data security, availability and efficiency, we expect the comfort around the cloud to extend further into the e-discovery realm.

2. Credibility

Major technology transitions gather momentum when industry leaders express a vision and then work to bring it to reality. This is now occurring on several fronts. Huge investments by Amazon and Microsoft, for example, into cloud infrastructure have made the cloud a credible, secure reality for e-discovery in enterprises and law firms.

Microsoft, in particular, has set forth a roadmap to meet the business requirements of e-discovery, and it has crafted a direction with its cloud service, Azure, and Office 365, which has been adopted by an estimated 70 percent of the Fortune 500. Microsoft’s Office 365 strategy is compelling: It allows its users to work on the go, at a lower cost, and, perhaps most significantly, with the familiarity of their day-to-day applications and documents.

It is noteworthy that the use of Office 365 is growing in parallel with skyrocketing data volumes, making Office 365 an important source of electronically stored information (ESI) in the discovery process. Combined with Azure, which provides the ability to build and deploy cloud applications and handle the infrastructure and operational aspects of managing enterprise IT, the benefits are even more compelling to organizations. In the e-discovery context, kCura’s RelativityOne, the cloud version of Relativity, sits in the Azure cloud, making the transition to the cloud easier for practitioners already using Office 365.

3. Comfortable Change

Most corporations have longstanding databases or projects that they prefer to complete on older platforms, given legacy licensing fees and other costs. They may also be influenced in this preference by data security issues and jurisdictional considerations related to data-privacy rules. But it may not have to be an either-or choice. A hybrid approach that legal teams are increasingly adopting uses both an on-premise application and the cloud together. They can work on today’s case in the on-premise model, and put the next case in the cloud. The end user experience is seamless, with a unique customized domain for the organization and a single portal for logging into all cases, regardless of where the database is hosted.

4. Costs Down

As IT spending moves to the cloud – an estimated $1 trillion, according to Gartner – the cost advantages will make cloud computing one of the most disruptive forces in IT spending since the early digital age. This is because the cloud infrastructure is a highly scalable environment. By adopting a cloud model, organizations no longer need to invest in or maintain hardware and software, and they can thus reduce or eliminate altogether a host of costs. Among them are IT salaries, servers, software licenses, regular upgrades and other resource-intensive expenses that can drain the organization’s core business.

5. Cross-Border Expansion

The move to a cloud environment such as RelativityOne may reduce the number of e-discovery service providers that offer data processing and hosting services, but it simultaneously presents an opportunity to extend e-discovery expertise well beyond the core technical support functions into more complex areas. Foreign language data processing and review, for example, is an area of growing complexity for many legal teams, as growing cross-border litigation and investigations necessitate the need for data processing, translation and review in Chinese, Korean, Japanese and other highly nuanced languages.

6. Customization

An open and extendable platform creates an ecosystem of service providers and partners to customize and expand its capabilities. Many organizations are embracing the cloud together with the help of a service provider that can leverage an open platform like Relativity to develop customized programs in early case assessment, data analytics and management dashboards. Expertise will also include unique review workflows leveraging data analytics such as predictive coding, email threading and concept analysis to cull data out early and prioritize documents for review. Finally, service providers with a deep analytics toolset will continue to enhance business intelligence solutions that enable legal teams to gain transparency across their matters for better decision-making.

7. Compatibility with the Environment

A strong cloud application needs to play well in the increasingly common Office 365 environment. As volumes of data grow, the ability to find and move documents from Office 365 to the review database will be critical for getting a review project running quickly, while simplifying the data-transfer process. Cloud-based e-discovery platforms such as RelativityOne can integrate efficiently with Office 365 in a way that simplifies the identification and collection of Office documents while avoiding duplication and transfers of data.

8. Compliance with Global Data Regulations

Stricter data privacy regulations across the globe, including the EU General Data Protection Regulation and newer data privacy laws across Asia, have requirements for controlling the access, movement and disposition of data collected for e-discovery. As data moves to the cloud, infrastructure providers such as Microsoft, which has data centers around the world, can give legal teams assurance that the data will be handled in a manner that is compliant with local policies and procedures for legal, physical and technical controls.

The Future of the Cloud

Looking ahead, artificial intelligence (AI) is a fertile area for legal teams to watch. AI will allow lawyers to quickly get the most relevant documents and better understand the story behind a case. It should work hand-in-glove with the other tools that are spurring adoption of cloud-based e-discovery. When you put them all together, even the most tepid corporations are likely to reach for the cloud.

Published October 6, 2017.