It should come as no surprise that the volume of data generated and held by organizations is growing exponentially. As a result, eDiscovery, which involves identifying, preserving, and producing electronic information for legal matters, has become increasingly complex and costly.
Managing and searching through massive amounts of data is time-consuming, resource-intensive, and expensive. However, by leveraging the benefits of storage virtualization, organizations can transform their eDiscovery processes, streamlining process accuracy and efficiency and reducing the burden of data management. In short, storage virtualization can significantly benefit eDiscovery, making the process faster, more cost-effective, and less disruptive. Let’s first look at what storage virtualization is:
Storage virtualization presents a logical view of physical storage resources (both cloud and on-prem) to a host computer system, treating all storage media in the enterprise as a single pool of storage. By abstracting physical storage resources and presenting them as a single virtual pool, storage virtualization provides numerous advantages that enhance organizational flexibility, storage and compute scalability, and cost-effectiveness via accessing the files from their most appropriate storage locations.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the main benefits in a bit more detail:
Centralized and Simplified Data Management
Storage virtualization allows organizations to consolidate their numerous storage systems into a unified, centrally managed infrastructure. This consolidation provides users with a single point of access and control and simplifies data search and management for eDiscovery purposes. By eliminating the need to navigate and search through multiple application repositories and storage silos, legal teams can search for, access, review, and export relevant information more efficiently with fewer chances of errors.
This data centralization can also improve data governance, ensuring that all potentially responsive data is preserved and accessible throughout the eDiscovery process. This data consolidation is also beneficial when exporting potentially relevant data into an eDiscovery platform, such as Relativity One or Exterro’s E-Discovery Data Management platform, for further eDiscovery processing.
Improved Search and Retrieval Capabilities
Effective and accurate eDiscovery relies on searching for, locating, securing, and retrieving relevant data quickly. Storage virtualization enables advanced search and indexing capabilities from one dashboard rather than many different search applications and user interfaces. By indexing the entire virtualized storage environment, organizations can simultaneously perform comprehensive searches across multiple data sources with just one search dashboard. This capability significantly reduces the time and effort required to identify and collect potentially responsive data, expediting eDiscovery.
Enhanced Data Preservation and Chain of Custody
Maintaining data integrity and establishing a legally defensible chain of custody is crucial in eDiscovery processing. Storage virtualization technology offers features that facilitate proper data preservation, tracking, and access controls. By leveraging virtual storage replication, organizations can create point-in-time copies of eDiscovery datasets, ensuring their legal defensibility, immutability (especially when stored in WORM storage), and integrity throughout the lengthy legal process. These replications serve as secure evidence repositories, preserving data in its original format (with all existing metadata) and enabling organizations to demonstrate the legal defensibility and accuracy of their eDiscovery process.
Corporate legal departments and their external law firms have been a significant target for cyber-thieves and ransomware for many years. The main reason is that the data corporate legal collects in response to eDiscovery orders can be highly sensitive and contain sensitive corporate secrets such as intellectual property - likewise for law firms that collect massive amounts of sensitive eDiscovery data from many high-profile clients.
Legal departments and their law firms retain large client eDiscovery data sets for many years (sometimes in perpetuity) in case of appeals or related cases arise. These legacy eDiscovery data sets have remained a target for cyber-criminals for many years.
Ask yourself this (or, better yet, ask one of your corporate attorneys) about the value of the M&A documents or eDiscovery data they collect. What would happen if the eDiscovery data you had spent days or weeks collecting was attacked and encrypted two days before you were due to turn that data over to opposing counsel?
Is a Ransomware Attack a Valid Reason for not Responding to an eDiscovery Request in Time?
Generally, a ransomware attack can be a valid reason for not responding to an eDiscovery request in time. Ransomware attacks can result in the encryption or inaccessibility of data, preventing organizations from accessing their systems and files. This can make it difficult or impossible to gather and produce the required electronic documents within the specified timeframe.
However, it is important to note that the judge’s acceptance of this reason for missing crucial dates may depend on several factors, including jurisdiction, court rules, the specifics of the case, and the security precautions taken by the affected organization. Additionally, the Judge has the final say in their courtroom. One Judge may accept the reasoning and delay the response date. In contrast, another Judge could refuse because the company which suffered the attack should have been better prepared.
Ultimately, the decision on whether the reason is deemed valid or whether any sanctions or consequences should apply lies with the court. If you find yourself in this situation, it is advisable to consult with legal professionals who can provide guidance tailored to your specific legal situation.
If a ransomware attack occurs, it is essential to promptly inform the Judge and the opposing party about the attack and its impact on your ability to comply with the eDiscovery request. Documentation and evidence of the attack can help support your claim.
Legal departments consolidating eDiscovery data sets into a separate and protected immutable cloud-virtualized legal department file share can help IT concentrate and focus their cyber defenses on the most sensitive corporate data – the data held in the legal department file share.
Data Distribution and Optimization
One of the main challenges facing legal departments and law firms is the increasing number and size of eDiscovery data sets needing to be transferred from place to place.
Traditional eDiscovery processing often requires organizations to duplicate and transfer large volumes of data, leading to substantial risk (loss or corruption) and costs associated with data security, storage, and transfers. During these data transfers, maintaining the chain of custody is essential.
Storage virtualization helps address this challenge by optimizing system storage utilization and reducing the need for data duplication and physical data transfers – helping to maintain the legal chain of custody.
Virtualized storage systems allow for dynamic capacity allocation eliminating the need for manual data duplication and physical transfers. This reduces storage costs and minimizes the time and effort required to manage and transfer finalized data sets during eDiscovery. For example, a legal department could grant access to their external counsel to the department’s (virtualized) eDiscovery file share, allowing the law firm to search, process, and export responsive content while keeping the data secure and replicated.
This capability could also be an advantage for directly linking the law firm’s eDiscovery platform, such as those from Relativity or Exterro, drastically reducing the need for very large data transfers.
Flexibility and Scalability
Storage virtualization allows organizations to adapt to changing eDiscovery requirements and scale their infrastructure as needed. As data volumes continue to grow, virtualized cloud storage solutions can easily (and dynamically) accommodate expanding storage needs without significant disruptions. Scaling storage resources in a virtualized cloud environment is more efficient, allowing organizations to allocate additional storage capacity or compute resources when needed seamlessly. This scalability ensures that organizations can handle the potential spikes in the data collection and processing demands of eDiscovery (or FOIA) without compromising system performance or incurring substantial infrastructure costs.
Streamlined Collaboration and Workflows
Effective collaboration among legal teams, IT departments, and external parties such as law firms or eDiscovery services providers is essential for successful and legally defensible eDiscovery processing.
Storage virtualization aids streamlined collaboration by enabling data sharing and access controls across distributed teams. Virtualized storage environments support secure remote access, allowing authorized personnel to access relevant, case-specific data from anywhere at any time. This collaborative environment fosters efficient eDiscovery workflows, reduces costly delays in the eDiscovery process, and enhances the legal teams’ overall productivity.
Storage virtualization offers a multitude of benefits to organizations dealing with the complexities of the eDiscovery process. By centralizing data management, improving search and retrieval capabilities, ensuring data preservation, reducing storage costs, providing flexibility, and enabling streamlined collaboration, storage virtualization empowers corporate legal departments and their external law firms to navigate the eDiscovery process more effectively and efficiently. As the volume of electronically stored data (ESI) continues to grow, embracing storage virtualization becomes increasingly crucial for legal organizations seeking to enhance their eDiscovery capabilities, minimize risks, and reduce costs associated with eDiscovery processes.
I’ve briefly described the risks of transferring large data sets from place to place, i.e., from the original company to their law firm, from the law firm to an eDiscovery service provider, back to the law firm, and finally to the opposing counsel.
What if the original eDiscovery data set could remain in an organization’s secure (immutable) virtual storage location with the capability to allow direct (audited) access to associated external law firms, eDiscovery service providers, or even opposing counsel?
To explore this question further5, look for our next blog as we dive deeper into this possibility.
restorVault Brings Storage Virtualization for Easier eDiscovery to the Next Level
restorVault’s intelligent cloud data virtualization can automatically move specific data, such as legacy and inactive files or sensitive legal department data sets, managed by configurable policies, to less expensive (and more secure) immutable cloud storage while keeping file access available on the initial file server. This ensures that employees can find and retrieve their data without additional training or the need to enter a new application.
For eDiscovery, the restorVault storage virtualization capability provides a more secure, straightforward, and legally defensible process for providing eDiscovery data sets to (only) those with authority to access it. Additionally, it also acts as a data consolidation platform for faster and easier eDiscovery processing – including litigation hold placement.
In fact, target data are automatically moved to allotted storage – such as restorVault’s secure cloud-based Compliant Cloud Archive (CCA), while replacing the file with an active hyperlink (virtual data file), providing direct access to the migrated file stored in the CCA. This capability amounts to (automated) intelligent virtualization of all files based on customizable policies. These file links can also provide direct eDiscovery platform access to those files stored in the restorVault immutable cloud.
restorVault’s Compliant Cloud Archive (CCA) provides active ransomware/extortionware protection by using encrypted, immutable (WORM) object storage - which is resistant to ransomware attacks on all stored files and backups. restorVault’s patented virtual data access technology acts as a first line of defense while shielding restorVault data from attacks. The restorVault CCA platform can defeat ransomware attacks enabling the restoration and access to millions of files in minutes - reducing downtime by 10x.
restorVault’s Secure Cloud Backup (SCB) capability also provides a hot-standby cloud backup capability that allows for complete disaster or ransomware recovery in minutes, not days.
Contact us today to learn how restorVault can help your company save while increasing data security and storage capacity!