Cloud-based app suite takes aim at e-discovery speed and cost

Kroll Ontrack says Ediscovery.com will make the time-consuming legal process more efficient

A company that helps enterprises through e-discovery will give customers new tools to streamline the process and cut costs.

Kroll Ontrack is bringing several features together under Ediscovery.com, a site that enterprises will be able to use as a one-stop shop for managing the e-discovery process. The new apps will also offer greater automation. In doing so, the company plans to turn e-discovery from an art to a science, according to Kroll President and CEO Dean Hager.

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E-discovery is the process of finding documents relevant to a lawsuit or other legal process, usually for delivery to the opposing side in a potential litigation. It's also used for internal investigations or audits and in preparation for mergers and acquisitions, Hager said. The trick is to find just the right data and leave out what doesn't have to be produced, such as emails covered by attorney-client privilege.

Most enterprises start each e-discovery projects from scratch, essentially re-inventing the wheel, Hager said. That's getting more difficult and expensive because the amount of email, spreadsheets, presentations, and other data is growing faster than ever. "Everyone is just typing furiously," Hager said. The cloud-based apps on Ediscovery.com are designed to let Kroll's customers monitor the work in detail and manage all their e-discovery projects as a portfolio.

"On a day-by-day basis, you can say, 'Tell me what this project is costing me, tell me why it's costing me that much, how it compares to other projects that are similar to it," Hager said. "You can even compare it to ... some standards that exist within the industry."

By learning from each project, enterprises also can make e-discovery a more efficient, repeatable process, he said.

Kroll's current offering is already SaaS (software as a service). Companies send potentially relevant data to Kroll, which processes the data through steps such as sifting out duplicate files. That data goes back to lawyers for review, and Kroll then delivers the proper documents to the opposing side. But currently, Kroll simply reports back to the customer periodically on how the process is going, Hager said.

A key feature of Ediscovery.com is a "project wall" that's similar to a Facebook Wall, he said. All communication about the e-discovery project takes place and resides on that page, unless it's a voice call, in which case Kroll writes a summary of the conversation on the wall. This allows for ongoing, real-time monitoring that can help a customer keep the project efficient, Hager said.

One of the biggest costs in e-discovery is hosting the data that may be needed in a case, because lawsuits can go on for years, said David Yerich, director of e-discovery at health insurance company United Health. Kroll and other vendors charge enterprises for storage every month, even though there may be no activity in the case for long periods of time, he said.

Yerich is a Kroll customer and has been briefed on Ediscovery.com. To him, the highlights of what Kroll is promising are features designed to reduce hosting costs. One will allow companies to send plain text rather than the much larger native application files for searching and indexing. The full files can be sent later as needed. Another feature lets companies easily send data they have hosted at Kroll into "near-line" disk storage, which takes longer to call up when needed but costs less, Yerich said.

Kroll's new tools for gathering and analyzing metrics could also cut e-discovery costs, Yerich said. Most e-discovery platforms provide statistics such as how much data in a collection turned out to be relevant, but those insights are only available after the fact, he said. Kroll's technology will let an e-discovery team view those metrics in real time and potentially use them to better manage the process. For example, if searches of the data from one employee aren't coming up with many relevant results, the team might decide to take that employee off the list, Yerich said.

The Ediscovery.com suite consists of three products. Ediscovery.com Collect, for identifying, preserving and collecting data from Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint, is available now. Ediscovery.com Review, a tool for controlling data volume and costs, will be generally available early next year. Ediscovery.com for Portfolio Management, for managing e-discovery projects as a portfolio, also will be generally available early next year. Kroll did not disclose pricing.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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