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eDiscovery Hosting: Tips for Running Lean and Mean with Hosted Workspaces

Anyone who’s ever had the need to host data for eDiscovery knows two things for sure: it’s not cheap and it can go on far longer than anticipated. Fees often stack up beyond the initial estimates, and it can become what seems like a never-ending drag on staff and budget.

While it’s unlikely that the need for eDiscovery hosting can be eliminated completely, it’s certainly possible to take a well-measured approach that will rein in unnecessary costs and keep those timelines tight. It just means working smarter, not harder. Here are some tips to help you do just that.

Tip #1: Host only what you need.

It’s very easy to get to the end of processing the data and just shove it all into the hosting database. Who really has time to do a thorough evaluation of what can be left out, right?  Wrong.

You probably have more time now than you will later, and taking advantage of that fact will save you time and money overall.  Reducing the data population early on is a valuable investment that can pay off exponentially in the end by saving money at every step.  So how can you reliably determine in the early stages what you should host and what can be left behind?

Consider using an ECA workspace to test and establish culling parameters. Many providers allow access to such a workspace at a significantly reduced cost compared to a standard hosted database, and you can take advantage of the reduced rate to further refine what truly needs to be hosted. Maybe some culling has already occurred during processing, but even so, there could be room for more. Using an ECA workspace, you can play with parameters around date, file types, and keywords.

Analytics is a great tool to employ here, too. Try clustering and see if there are significant pockets of data that are clearly junk and can be eliminated. If you’re using Relativity, take advantage of the visualization options in the dashboard to look for potential opportunities to reduce the data population. If your ESI protocol allows for it, run threading and only send the emails with unique content to the final hosting workspace.

Separate ECA workspace not really your style? No problem! You could also take a lighter approach to loading by including only text and metadata in your workspace at first. This approach means way less volume (and reduced cost) in the beginning while still allowing access to the full population. Once you’ve identified the subset of data to move forward,  you can load up the associated natives. This way you are restricting the “heavy” documents to only those that truly need to be hosted.

Tip #2: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

These are words to live by these days, not in just our physical environment but in our virtual ones as well! ECA workspaces don’t have to be limited to a single matter. They’re even more valuable when used as a repository across matters.

As you collect and process, you can single instance documents while maintaining duplicate custodian and path information so that data can be pulled quickly and easily when needed for a new matter. This way you’re keeping even the reduced-fee workspace lean. Plus, there’s no need to waste time collecting and processing data you already have, right? You can focus those efforts on the data that’s newly in scope while review is already underway over the data you had ready to go.

Beyond the data itself though, be sure to leverage any matter-agnostic coding. Anything that isn’t subject-matter specific can be re-used: privilege calls, confidentiality, PHI, PII, etc. These don’t change across matters, so why spend valuable reviewer time coding them over and over? Think of the savings you gain by executing those cumbersome identification processes just once and having the results live with the document forever!  Store the coding so that it can be ported to new workspaces right along with your existing data. Added bonus: the coding will likely be much more consistent overall.

Tip #3: Automate to regulate.

Take advantage of dynamic searches and automated workflows and triggers that enable a more efficient data flow with less intervention. You’ll keep hourly project management fees under control by minimizing “touches,” and review will keep moving right along without the constant need to stop and regroup.

Easier said than done though, right? Wrong again! A little planning up front, and you’ll realize a significant savings over the course of the project. There are plenty of low-effort opportunities for automation that your vendor can help you with. Review streams are the most obvious. New data can be routed to first pass review as it’s added to the workspace. Second pass review streams can be automatically populated as documents complete first pass review. You can keep tabs on coding conflicts and have these sent to senior reviewers for resolution on a regular schedule. Any work stream can be a candidate for automatic identification and routing.

Imaging and production populations are great areas to target as well. For example, redaction requires imaging, and you can certainly have folks imaging on the fly as they go, but it’s much more efficient if the redacted population is tackled en masse rather than one by one. To facilitate a more automated approach, you can have reviewers tagging documents that need redaction so that they are automatically sent off for imaging and land in a redaction focused workflow once imaging is complete. That way, no one is wasting time watching documents image in front of them, and when it does come time to redact, it’s a focused rather than sporadic task that better supports consistency.

Tip #4: Never be left in the dark.

A common complaint in the hosting world centers around lack of visibility and the associated dread that turns to shock when the monthly invoice comes through. Don’t allow yourself to be a victim! Work with your vendor to take control so that you have clear and regular insight both within and across matters.

There are all kinds of things that can be monitored, but a few really stand out in terms of how they affect the bottom line. Here are some to focus on:

  • Watch those user fees! Maintain clear view of reviewer progress and activity levels so you can address challenges and eliminate unnecessary spend. In particular, don’t get caught paying for users that aren’t even logging in.
  • Look for opportunities to hibernate or eliminate workspaces. If the matter is done and won’t be coming back, take that workspace down. You can always have it backed up for later restoration, just in case. Or, sometimes a case isn’t over but is going on hiatus. Move that workspace into “hibernation.” Many vendors offer low-cost alternative storage for this type of situation while preserving the ability to make the workspace available almost immediately once the time comes.
  • Get regular reports on hosting volume and fees, both in real time and projected for the month. This way you can take a closer look at where the costs are coming from. You won’t be surprised at the end of the month, and you may even be able to identify areas that warrant a little more oversight to help control spend.

Even small workflow considerations can have a major impact in reducing what is an often heart-stopping bottom line for eDiscovery hosting, so avoid sticker shock (and ticker shock!) by taking advantage of these simple hosting economies for a leaner and meaner eDiscovery hosting process.

Image: © Can Stock Photo / happyroman


This post is second in a series by Erika Namnath about eDiscovery services. See the first post, “eDiscovery Processing: 7 Tips for Reducing Stress (and Spend)” here

Erika Namnath joined H5 in August 2005 and is Associate Director of Technical Services within the eDiscovery Group. She focuses on litigation support services including media management, processing, imaging, and production. She has designed and implemented strategies for a variety of use cases, including data reduction and subjective culling, responsive review, expert search, and workflow prioritization.  Erika will appear at Relativity Fest, presenting Conquering Your Productions—Take Charge Like a Boss!” Register and join her session!  

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