The adoption of cloud-based Microsoft Office 365 (“O365”) within enterprises is growing exponentially. According to a 2016 Gartner survey, 78 percent of enterprises use or plan to use Office 365, up from 64 percent in mid-2014. O365 includes built-in eDiscovery tools in the Security and Compliance Center at an additional cost. Many, but not all, O365 customers are utilizing the internal eDiscovery module, to which Microsoft is dedicating a lot of effort and resources in order to provide a go-to solution for the eDiscovery of all information located within O365. Based upon my assessment through product demos and discussions with industry colleagues, I believe Microsoft will achieve this goal relatively soon for data housed within its O365 platform. The Equivio eDiscovery team that transitioned over to Microsoft in a 2015 acquisition is very dedicated to this effort and they know what they are doing.
But as I see it, the O365 revolution presents two major takeaways for the rest of the eDiscovery software and services industry. The first major point comes down to simple architecture. Most eDiscovery tools operate by making bulk copies of data associated with individual custodians, and then permanently migrate that data to their processing and/or review platform. This workflow applies to all non-Microsoft email archiving platforms, appliance-based processing platforms, and hosted review platforms. As far as email archiving, a third-party email archive solution requires the complete and redundant duplication, migration and storage of copies of all emails already located in O365. This is counter-productive to the very purpose of a cloud-based O365 investment. We have already seen non-Microsoft email archiving solutions on the decline in terms of market share, and with MS Exchange archiving becoming much more robust, we will only see that trend accelerate.
eDiscovery processing tools and review platforms are also fighting directly against the O365 tide. This is especially true for processing appliances (whether physical or virtual), which address O365 collections through bulk copy and export of all of the target custodians’ data from O365 and into their appliance, where the data is then re-indexed. Such an effort is costly, time consuming, and inefficient. But the main problem is that clients who are investing in O365 do not want to see all their data routinely exported out of its native environment every time there is an eDiscovery or compliance investigation. Organizations are fine with a very narrow data set of relevant ESI leaving O365 after it has been reviewed and is ready to be produced in a litigation or regulatory matter. What they do not want is a mass export of terabytes of data because eDiscovery and processing tools need to broadly ingest that data in their platform in order to begin the indexing, culling and searching process. For these reasons, most eDiscovery software and compliance archiving tools do not play well with O365, and that will prove to be a significant problem for those developers and the service providers who utilize those tools for their processes.
The second major O365 consideration is that organizations, especially larger enterprises, rarely house all or even most of their data within O365, with hybrid cloud and on-premise environments being the norm. The O365 eDiscovery tools can only address what is contained within O365. Any on-premise data, including on-premise Microsoft sources (SharePoint, Exchange and Office docs on File Shares) cannot be readily consolidated by O365, and neither can data from other cloud sources such as Google Drive, Box, Dropbox and AWS. And of course, desktops, whether physical or virtual, are critical to eDiscovery collections and are also not supported by the O365 eDiscovery tools, with Microsoft indicating that they do not have any plans to soon address all these non-O365 data sources in a unified fashion.
So eDiscovery software providers need to have a good process to perform unified search and collection of non-O365 sources and to consolidate those results with responsive O365 data. This process should be efficient and not simply involve mass export of data out of O365 to achieve such data consolidation.
X1 Distributed Discovery (X1DD) is uniquely suited to complement and support O365 with an effective and defensible process and has distinct advantages over other eDiscovery tools that solely rely on permanently migrating ESI out of O365. X1DD enables organizations to perform targeted search and collection of the ESI of up to thousands of endpoints, as well as O365 and other sources, all in a unified fashion. The search results are returned in minutes, not weeks, and thus can be highly granular and iterative, based upon multiple keywords, date ranges, file types, or other parameters. Using X1DD, O365 data sources are searched in place in a very targeted and efficient manner, and all results can be consolidated into Microsoft’s Equivio review platform or another review platform such as Relativity. This approach typically reduces the eDiscovery collection and processing costs by at least one order of magnitude (90%). For a demonstration or briefing on X1 Distributed Discovery, please contact us.