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In-Place Analytics Will Be an E-Discovery Focal Point in 2014

Created on January 8, 2014

e-discovery trends

It's that time of year where we all get to look into our crystal balls and prognosticate the next big trend in e-discovery. I've sampled the various blogs and e-discovery related websites and have seen a host of predictions covering everything from rules changes to predictive coding. Those topics will certainly garner a good deal of attention in 2014. Another one that isn't as widely discussed is the growing importance of in-place analytics in e-discovery.

The concept of in-place analytics – or pre-collection analytics – is not well understood by many e-discovery practitioners. That's because most professionals are accustomed to the traditional e-discovery workflow – as outlined by the EDRM – which dictates that organizations collect ESI prior to analyzing it for relevance. Indeed, until recently that was the only viable option and, as we all know, old habits die hard. Today, more advanced e-discovery technologies allow organizations to analyze data in-place, which can deliver a host of benefits as detailed below.

What are in-place analytics?

Basic analytics technologies have been a part of the e-discovery process for some time. The first popular analytics tool was basic keyword search, which remains a very popular method for identifying relevant documents. Recent years have seen the market embrace more advanced analytical methods, such as semantic search, Boolean search, concept search and predictive coding. While the concept of in-place analytics relies on many of these same search and analysis methodologies, the key difference is when and how they are applied. The traditional e-discovery process relies on the collection of large volumes of data and then running analytics tools against those collected data sets to identify documents that are relevant to the matter. In-place analytics technologies are designed to analyze data in its native environment to help expose critical ESI before organizations are forced to collect.

How do in-place analytics work?

Data SearchThere are few e-discovery vendors that provide products capable of analyzing data in its native environment, and the underlying technology that allows for in-place analytics is quite advanced. At a very basic level, some technologies allow for users to select custodian data sources and non-custodian data sources (NCDS) and set date ranges, keywords, document types and exclusion criteria to select the files to be analyzed. The system will then gather total data size and file count statistics per data source for files matching the criteria and calculate the expected collection costs. More advanced in-place analysis tools take the additional step of indexing both file metadata and text content so that legal teams can run a variety of searches using the various methods described above to better identify potentially responsive ESI.

Why are in-place analytics important?

Increasingly, even relatively simple matters can implicate terabytes of data stored across a variety of sources, from email systems and shared databases to cloud servers, collaboration platforms like Microsoft SharePoint and mobile devices. Collecting data from these various locations can be time consuming, resource draining and costly. Storing that data after it's collected contributes to the IT burden and increases risk. By employing in-place analytics on native data volumes, organizations can winnow down these large data sets before collecting any ESI. The result is more targeted collections and quicker access to key facts about the matter, empowering legal teams to make smarter strategic decisions. Narrowing collections also helps organizations avoid data duplication and allows for more efficient disposal of data that isn't business critical or associated with any ongoing legal obligations.

What to expect in 2014?

Expanded adoption of in-place analytics technology will likely be driven by plain necessity in the coming year. It will be impossible for organization to keep pace with the ferocious growth of data using traditional, antiquated e-discovery methods. Exponentially rising litigation costs and poor case outcomes will prompt many organizations to consider how in-place analytics can be worked into existing processes. Another driver of increased adoption will be advancements at the vendor level. A handful of e-discovery software companies recognized the importance of in-place analytics years ago and have advanced their products greatly. Analytics methodologies have matured significantly as well, with predictive analytics now gaining much wider traction in e-discovery circles. Organizations now have at their disposal various tools that can quickly and accurately cull, categorize and organize large data sets. The next step is simply applying those tools upstream before the data deluge takes hold.

Another important consideration is the fact that in-place analytics have utility beyond the confines of e-discovery. As organizations get more accustomed to these technologies and the methodologies behind them, many will find that they can also serve as very important information governance tools. For example, a company could run some analytics against a large server and database and identify potentially sensitive information, such as documents containing with personally identifiable information or customer data, such as credit card numbers. That ESI could then be isolated and better protected against breaches or accidental exposure.

Learn more about Exterro's in-place analytics capabilities and other important technical features by reading our complimentary, “IT Buyer's Guide for Exterro®."