Friday, December 10, 2010

Cloud Computing in Ediscovery - an evolution or an optical illusion?

Is it inevitable that Cloud computing is coming to E-Discovery?

Yes I believe it is. And faster than anyone expects.

In layman’s terms, cloud computing enables users to access state of the art technology services without expertise with, nor control over, the technology that supports the service. I like the analogy used by Nicholas Carr in his book The Big Switch , which compares the evolution of cloud computing to the transition from personal power generation to modern utilities.

Rather than store data on an organization's own computer network, the data is stored on servers "in the cloud" and available on demand by the law firm or service bureau. Instead of installing , purchasing and maintaining data/software on a network or desktop computer, the data/application is hosted on computers in the cloud and available on demand ideally on a “ per consumption basis."

Utilizing “the cloud” can result in dramatic cost savings because companies using cloud services need not purchase their own infrastructure or software, need not hire people to maintain it, and need not regularly upgrade. In addition, cloud computing is highly scalable. So rather than maintaining an excess of computing power -companies can maintain variable capacity levels to suit their immediate needs using the cloud. More importantly, utilizing the cloud will allow companies to take advantage of the best and latest technology - since they will not have to disassemble and rebuild their entire IT infrastructure in order to upgrade.

Law firms that practice litigation are experiencing data growth rates which are estimated at 45% annually according to Gartner.

Consider that:

The world sends over 60 billion e-mails daily.
90% of all documents generated today are electronic.
A single hard drive can store the 40 million pages or more

For litigation support services such as Superior Document Services the problem is growing more acute as corporations provide increasingly more and more data as part of the discovery process to their legal council. The cloud solution allows law firms to push litigation support cases into the cloud immediately upon receipt of data, Both the data and the data processing can be accessed in the cloud for immediate and on-going access by both attorneys and service providers Cloud storage eliminates ongoing capital investments in expensive storage hardware to accommodate the unpredictable growth of litigation support data.

Of course their are numerous valid concerns about utilization of a cloud in the litigation arena - who has access?; where is my data?; is my data secure?; data segregation and just the uneasy feeling that your data is out of your physical control.. At first these concerns may seem daunting to a risk averse law firm. In fact that the risks can be minimized I think that the biggest disconnect for me was the issue of Public clouds. For all their benefits of low cost, elasticity and flexibility my perception is that public clouds are not yet able to offer service levels and ironclad security for me to entertain the possibility of recommending that solution to my clients.

A key distinction between public and private clouds, and one that is important from a legal standpoint, is that public clouds likely have multi-tenancy,where a single instance of the software runs on a server, serving multiple client organizations. With private clouds, analysis of risk may be very different. Private cloud helps deliver lower IT costs, improved quality of service and greater business agility while offering better control and more secure access to corporate information. The most important consideration is ithat the security controls in cloud computing are for the most part the same as in any IT environment.

Mark my words - Private Cloud computing is and furious

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