eDiscovery in the Cloud

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eDiscovery is a disruptive technology: finding the relevant data for lawsuits or other legal actions used to take teams of lawyers weeks, months or years to do what an eDiscovery product can turn up in seconds, minutes or hours. The problem with eDiscovery, as we’ve pointed out in the past, is one of analytics: The only way to verify the accuracy of an eDiscovery product is to check it by hand, which obviates the whole point of automating the process. Still, e-discovery technology is displacing lawyers and paralegals and new vendors are getting into the game.

Case in point: in the seemingly endless feature war between the Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 cloud productivity suites, Google has announced the launch of Google Vault, an eDiscovery solution for managing and preserving key Gmail and chat conversations.

Google Vault, priced at $5/user/month, is aimed at helping businesses “reduce the costs of litigation, regulatory investigation and compliance actions,” or so writes Google Head of eDiscovery Jack Halprin in his blog entry revealing Vault to the world. Essentially, eDiscovery takes your data, stores it securely, and makes it searchable, so in the event of a lawsuit, customer complaint or other close scrutiny, you have everything available and indexed. Your virtual paper trail remains intact however long after the fact you need it to.

Google’s offering looks to have the same promise and the same pitfalls. At $5/user/month Google Vault actually costs considerably more than a comparable eDiscovery offering from developer partner CloudLock, whose most expensive plan tops out at $19/user/year. But Google is heavily promoting Vault’s deep-seated integration with the Google Apps suite, and Halprin himself told Business Insider that Vault will extend beyond just archiving e-mail and instant messaging sooner rather than later.

Services Angle

eDiscovery is a good example of how the cloud’s cost savings can be exaggerated. Very few large enterprises are willing to go without some kind of archiving and eDiscovery solution, but if you go with a public cloud option for messaging and collaboration – like, say, Google Apps – it’s an additional cost that needs to be accounted for. And that digs into the public cloud’s cost edge.

I feel certain that eDiscovery as it exists today is an almost intermediary step. eDiscovery generates terabytes and terabytes of data, and while the big data market as a whole may have its attention elsewhere, there’s plenty of room for innovation around language processing, improving accuracy significantly. And Google is in a good position to take it there, with both big data and algorithmic expertise in abundance.