cloud computing

The cloud and eDiscovery


Six benefits of cloud applications and uses for efficient eDiscovery practices.

Read time: 7 minutes

Leveraging advanced technologies can empower corporate counsel and law firms alike to take control of the ongoing challenge that today’s “information on demand” expectations present. With the many options available to the legal industry today, it may be challenging to ascertain which option will best suit your needs.

When access, disaster recovery, scalability and security are paramount requirements, a migration to the cloud could be the most effective route to help ensure this is accomplished. With the information overload of modern organizations, a pure cloud migration delivers secure access to important information — no matter the size — to those who need it, when and where they need it.

Cloud technologies have matured and concerns over ease-of-use have been addressed.

Cloud technologies have matured and concerns over ease-of-use have been addressed. In addition, organizations have put tighter security policies in place to address perceived cloud security issues, which include encryption-at-rest technologies or multi-level authorization requirements to name a few.

Despite these proven measures, many may remain hesitant about taking steps toward a full migration. Here we will discuss the benefits of migrating to the cloud, present tips on how to evaluate cloud technologies that will most effectively suit your needs, and explain how a cloud migration can help your organization.

Benefit #1: The cloud scales up and down with more cost efficiency.

Today, one of the key advantages of cloud computing is the speed at which you can customize your environment to suit your changing business needs. In a more traditional data center environment, that’s not necessarily the case.

As an example, imagine that you have a project that has an unexpected need for an additional 10TB of storage, but you don’t have 10TB available and the project is time sensitive. In a traditional data center environment, this would mean evaluating storage options; creating purchase orders, delivery, installation and configuration of storage systems – all of which is time consuming and may interfere with your ability to win a case. Even with the best will in the world, this is likely going to take a couple of weeks for implementation.

In a cloud environment, an information-on-demand requirement of this size can be achieved in less than 15 minutes. You simply provision the type of storage that you want, in the region that you want, and you are done in a matter of minutes.

Due to the cost model of cloud computing, you typically only pay for what you use, on a per-hour basis. This has clear advantages when your imaginary 10TB project completes, because you simply securely wipe and decommission the storage and cease paying for it. When we consider scalability, we naturally think about scaling up, but with the cloud environment we can also consider scaling down in real time. This is potentially important for your organization with respect to project-specific matters, overall data management efficiencies and even performance. In these instances, having the ability to scale down can prove helpful in saving significant costs when your needs decrease.

Should you need more processing power at short notice, additional IOPS (Input/Output Operations per Second) can be provisioned for the time that you need it. Again, it can be scalable both for increase and decrease as business needs require. In addition, as hosted platforms (like your hosted document review tool, for example) are typically scalable, that service can also be scaled up and down, in addition to servers and storage.

While our hypothetical 10TB example is storage, the same holds true for servers. Imagine you need five new servers, all running an enterprise version of SQL, to perform some advanced analytics. With cloud capabilities, this can be provisioned in a matter of minutes, instead of the weeks other methods might take, and cloud scaling doesn’t require additional software or hardware purchases. Again, once the project has finished, the servers can be decommissioned, and you no longer have to manage the additional environment or bear the cost for its now-unused servers and storage.

Benefit #2: The cloud is useful for much more than purely data storage.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is one type of cloud technology that provides virtualized computing, along with software (and typically storage), as opposed to a platform where you just buy storage. A good example would be your firm’s document review platform. Ultimately, this can help your organization save significant costs by negating the need to make capital expenditures.

Benefit #3: You’ll know exactly where your data is being stored.

There is often significant misunderstanding about the physical location of where data is stored in a cloud environment. Many times I have heard people say they don’t want their data held in an unknown location. Moreover, there are organizations today that still prefer the more traditional data center environment because they have strict compliance restrictions that dictate data stay in a certain jurisdiction or country.

Cloud service providers are aware of this and offer services where you can actually specify the location of your data upfront. It is indeed possible to know the physical address of the data center where your data is stored. Your data can remain in one centralized location, not dispersed over 15 different countries and 100 different servers. Cloud storage has to happen somewhere, right?

Generally, you can select your preferred geographic storage location for an additional fee; however, if you are planning a migration from a traditional data center to cloud services, it is important to consider where you want to house your data before migrating, as changing after the fact can be time consuming and incur additional costs.

Benefit #4: The cloud addresses disaster recovery as effectively as a traditional data center.

Disaster recovery is a serious consideration when creating an infrastructure for eDiscovery services. Due to the nature of cloud services, thousands of servers are constantly available on demand to recover from any disaster, with the ability to preconfigure the replication of servers as an automated process if the worst happens. This is similar to the technology used in more traditional data centers, but cloud options are typically technically more robust, providing more options and a stronger focus to meeting stringent Service Level Agreements (SLAs). As cloud providers compete for your business, SLA performance is commonly used as a significant differentiator.

Benefit #5: The cloud can provide sophisticated encryption.

Almost daily, we hear about corporate networks being compromised and personal or client information being exposed and often sold on the dark web. Law firms and corporations generally take a risk assessment approach, and leaving personal or client data exposed is a business killer. How can organizations reap the significant benefits of cloud services while minimizing risk?

In some cases, fully homomorphic encryption can be utilized, which encrypts data at the source and is never decrypted in processing (essentially, the data is processed in an encrypted state, with results being returned, still encrypted). For a cloud based document review environment, encryption-at-rest can be utilized.

When data is moving across the network, this typically utilizes encryption-in-motion (also known as encryption-in-transit), but when the data in a specific location is generally static, encryption-at-rest creates additional protection for your already robust secure environment. Essentially this means that even if the data is compromised or exposed, the contents of the data require a secret, secure key to unlock them. These layers of encryption, which cloud deployments commonly leverage, make using cloud computing for eDiscovery purposes a realistic option.

HIPAA, HITEC and other regulations that are designed to protect personally identifiable information (PII) can be addressed in a cloud environment, as well as the protection of client sensitive business information with the use of this sophisticated technology. Conversely, more traditional data centers often encounter challenges when trying to offer this type of encryption, granting cloud options a significant edge.

Benefit #6: Your cloud is always monitored.

Yet another significant advantage to migrating to the cloud is that large, established service providers administer around-the-clock security teams to constantly monitor their systems for attacks and proactively update best practices, which as a client of theirs, you inherit. Remember, their performance is typically measured against SLAs, so it is certainly in a cloud service provider’s best interest to provide clients an excellent level of service, which includes security. The benefits of a 24/7/365 sizeable team of security specialists is a significant advantage for you when engaging cloud computing service providers to administer your infrastructure or storage environment.

If your organization performs its due diligence, evaluates these benefits and seeks the cloud platform that best suits your needs and those of your clients – you will position yourself well for a successful outcome.

This article originally appeared in LJN’s Legal Tech Newsletter’s April 2016 edition¹.

  1. Law Journal Newsletters. April 2016.

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