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Cloud computing and eDiscovery

Cloud computing is a network of remote servers hosted on the internet to capture, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer. Document management in eDiscovery service providers, took flight four decades ago with software developers who were looking to blend traditional paper-based documents with new digital technologies. Document management originally involved managing any physical document that was the sole copy or version of itself.

The term cloud computing is ascribed to the industry shift and transformation from IT and management companies, law firms and legal support service companies either hosting and managing their own applications and data on local servers, or entering into micro-hosting arrangements with third-party providers to a grid computing model in which users access a shared computing environment typically being provided by large and well-entrenched technology companies. The cloud is an entirely virtual environment with digital tributaries that span the globe, moving data from one server to another to achieve optimal data storage and retrieval capabilities, bandwidth optimization, and overall IT cost-effectiveness, providing all of a company’s data storage, data processing and distribution needs on an on-demand basis.

Discovery and document reviewing, involves identification, preservation, collection, review and production of relevant information in a party’s possession, custody or control. The process of identifying relevant electronically stored information, presents a multitude of challenges. Document review companies today rely on a variety of electronic solutions for data creation, storage and maintenance. Cloud computing is a broad term that can encompass many different cloud-provisioned services. The most acquainted is cloud storage, the provisioning of storage space through the internet, accessible from anywhere and scalable to any size. Cloud computing, however, can also involve the provisioning of processing power, memory space, and other server components through the internet, the net result of which is Software-as-a-Service, or entire applications that are delivered exclusively through the cloud.

When document review companies opt for cloud storage of confidential and classified data, electronic landscape shifts, shuddering the standing of the company’s data map for a toss. Unlike documents and traditionally maintained ESI, information in the cloud is not limited to finite areas. A company’s data is no longer hosted and managed on networks and servers owned by the company. A single company’s data may be stored on various servers, each on a separate network, and potentially housed in a different country.

Collection of relevant electronically stored information can be one of the costliest, technologically demanding and labour-intensive parts of the discovery process; thereby making it even more important to ensure that the cloud provider has access to all data centres used for data storage, so that a situation of inaccessibility of data does not raise head. Care should be taken to ensure that this physical location, and the electronic security protecting the data residing on the server, is appropriate and sufficiently robust. One aspect of turning hosting duties over to a third-party is losing control over these security and data protection issues, as some or all of those security and protection duties devolve to the hosting company.

Document review companies store data in cloud which are connected to complex and sensitive litigation, it is critical to understand the presence of others storing in the same cloud, and learn how the system is designed to ensure that the risk of conflating or unsanctioned access to the data is negligible. The information that is stored in the cloud is not obligatorily searchable. It is possible that data sits in the cloud, but that the cloud lacks the necessary search component required to search and retrieve that data. There are also risks of the cloud being acquired by a competitor and sudden rise in need to migrate the data in the cloud to internal system; or the cloud goes bankrupt causing the cloud to evaporate and with the classified data, or the cloud provider facing a security breach and the data stored in the cloud is compromised. While cloud computing presents a compelling business value proposition, it is wise for a company to consider cloud evaporation scenarios and how they might impact the company and any pending litigations. The ease of access and ease of use of most cloud computing offerings hide or mask the complexity of the engines, applications and structures that make the machine run and operate. Companies when need to review, analyse and download large amounts of relevant data in a short time, the cloud can be a hindrance if there has been little preparation.

On the contrary, it is also advantageous on the front where, by using a cloud provider of storage and computing, software developers can focus on functionality and user experience instead of infrastructure setup, maintenance, security, redundancy, and upgrading or downgrading capabilities as demands dictate. With a common infrastructure underpinning the software, developers can architect around those capabilities rather than having to accommodate the myriad potential configurations of end-user systems. Cloud computing resources also gives a push to scale up and down, seamlessly and efficiently. This liberates both developers and end users from worrying about whether and when they might reach the limits of the hardware available to them, or whether they’re paying for more than they need.

In document review companies, with the growing use and reliance on cloud technology, discovery disputes might not stay at bay forever. Mitigating complications, due to a third party’s physical control of the cloud and intricate advancements in cloud technology might save from legal dispute. Document review companies must account for the need to preserve evidence in their cloud strategy and weigh e-discovery issues and cost in their due diligence, contract negotiation, back-up and archival routine, and performance monitoring for their data held in one or several clouds.

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