Up-up in the sky! It's a Bird…it's a Plane…No…it's eDiscovery!

If you listen to some futurists (and they like it when you listen to them), the future of IT is in the clouds. Cloud computing, that is. And if they’re correct (and the like it even more when they’re correct), it means that eDiscovery is headed to the sky as well.

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is one of those catch-all terms (like “information technology” or “web 2.0”) that refers to a whole bunch of things, and defining it in precise terms is frustrating and fruitless, since a year from now that definition will change. Suffice it to say, cloud computing refers to an application being delivered over the Internet, so that clients and end users (that would be us folks) don’t have to download and install any software. We simply surf over, log in, and voila, we access the application. Google’s “gmail” and Microsoft’s “hotmail” are two examples of email in the cloud computing space.

How Does eDiscovery Fit in the Cloud Computing Space?

EnterpriseStorageForum.com offers a couple of solid working definitions for us, plus some tips on what corporations should be aware of. First, the definitions:

  • Cloud-based un-Hosted eDiscovery. This is when corporations access software over the Internet for eDiscovery-related tasks like storing, analyzing and reviewing data. It’s typically a cheaper and simpler solution, since there’s no software to install locally (other than a small launch application that takes users into the online program). Plus, the vendor provides technical support, which is thrilling news for corporate IT help staff. However, this approach can be a bandwidth hog, and corporations may have to upgrade their infrastructure so that interaction with the online program is smooth and fast.

  • Cloud-Based Hosted eDiscovery: This is when a corporation retains a host to store data (e.g. client information), and then accesses it to perform required eDiscovery tasks. One of the challenges here is ensuring that transmission of the information from the corporation to the host is encrypted and secure. And as with un-hosted cloud computing, bandwidth can also be an issue, and corporations may have to upgrade their infrastructure to avoid traffic jams and slowdowns.

Additional Challenges

As noted above, two things that can undermine eDiscovery in the cloud computing space are bandwidth and security. Other issues that can make or break this solution include data protection, chain of custody, and security for at-rest data. All of these issues need to be addressed and mapped out before a corporation launches their eDiscovery platform into the clouds.

Sound easy? It can be…but often isn’t. As EnterpriseStorageForum.com goes on to note, communication between legal and IT has not always been effective (to put it mildly). It’s less of a war for supremacy as it is a: “I don’t know what you do and you don’t know what I do, so what do we really need to talk to each other about besides the weather…and who really has time to talk about the weather?”

However, that has to change. Both IT and legal (or legal and IT, if you wish) need to realize that communication on the cloud computing front is mandatory, because this is an issue that clearly embraces both functions. Both camps have provide input and direction on the solution, and in the same spirit, both camps have to build systems that resolve problems (which will occur) and exploit opportunities (which will also occur) in a smooth, efficient and peaceful way.

Smooth, efficient and peaceful. Ah. Just like a cloud.

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