The legal industry recognizes the dominance of the cloud as the new way of storing, processing, and managing information and data today. In a survey of nearly 200 legal professionals Everlaw conducted with the Association of Ediscovery Specialists (ACEDS), 96% of respondents said cloud-based ediscovery is or will soon be the norm.
As such, providers of ediscovery and legal technology are rushing to join this conversation, branding themselves as cloud platforms, leaders, and innovators. However, not all cloud-providers of legal technology are the same and there’s a significant difference between being on the cloud and being built for the cloud.
Cloud Native vs. Cloud Based
The term ‘cloud native’ applies to software that is specifically designed for the cloud. Given the relatively recent origins of the cloud, newer tools on the market are more likely to take advantage of the limitless possibilities of cloud storage and processing. Since the cloud relies on microservice architecture, where additional servers can easily be utilized for heavy computation, cloud-native software has faster processing times and can be upgraded without disruption. Based on the user’s data volumes, scalability–both upward and downward–is seamless, with most pricing models typically based on paying for what you use. All of these are possible with software built on the cloud, since backend processing on the cloud allows it to deploy additional servers and applications based on demand, enabling users to experience no disruption to their workflows or slow service that an on-premises solution hosted on the cloud may suffer from.
Conversely, being just cloud-based simply means taking existing technology (in many cases, on-premises) and hosting it on cloud-based servers. This is essentially akin to installing an electric engine in a gas-powered vehicle. It’s a solution which might work, but is far from optimal. Numerous providers of legacy software have adopted this approach to label themselves as cloud-based platforms, but have in reality, simply modified on-premises software to be housed on cloud-based software, without altering any of the underlying architecture. In hosting their systems on the cloud, things get lost in translation, causing inefficiencies and clunky workflows.
This might appear to be a subtle difference but is a significant distinction. To put it simply, cloud-native software is built to take advantage of the cloud and the speed and scalability it offers, while cloud-based solutions are largely older platforms merely hosted on the cloud.
Scalability and Speed
Legal professionals expect the best technology to support their workflows–and they deserve it. Today, as the size, scope, and complexity of ESI explodes, data volumes uploaded to ediscovery platforms can venture into petabytes, with data scattered across a variety of mediums. As such, transferring this data for processing and review can be a painfully slow and complicated process when using old on-premises solutions hosted on the cloud.
To put it simply, cloud-native technology has near infinite scalability. Today, any individual or entity can purchase cloud storage and processing on providers such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud. Powered by truly massive infrastructures, these providers essentially offer infinite scalability for cloud-native offerings. Uploading terabytes or petabytes of data can take a matter of hours instead of weeks or months thanks to the computational power of cloud-native software. This is because of automated parallel processing, which enables cloud-native platforms to farm out high computational work to additional servers instead of bogging down one big server. So in another instance where one server may be responsible for processing a terabyte of data, on a cloud-native platform, multiple servers can do this work in tandem, giving users faster access to their data. Cloud-native software is designed to optimize for scalability far more than any alternative – on-premises, or on-premises hosted on the cloud.
Consider the case of a Fortune 500 corporation that came to Everlaw through one of our partners after they tried to upload a terabyte of data onto a legacy provider’s platform. The client’s data was truly massive in scope–from audio files, Slack messages, emails, and thousands of traditional documents–and needed to be uploaded, processed, and reviewed. They approached our competitor, a legacy software with a cloud-based offering, which was simply unable to upload the client’s data. However, Everlaw’s cloud-native solution was able to upload and process the client’s data in approximately eight hours.
No Time for Downtime
Ediscovery today can quite literally make or break a case, and as such, legal professionals need to be able to access their data at their convenience to focus on their work. On-premises solutions hosted on the cloud are prone to bugs and numerous instances of “downtime” wherein they are not available for users to conduct their business, because the provider has closed off access for it to install upgrades to the software. Every time a new update needs to be deployed, a manual process begins: users lose access to their workflows while systems engineers upgrade the software. This literal shutdown of software to update infrastructure comes with significant cost – locking legal professionals out of their workflows can seriously impact the outcomes of their cases and their firm’s viability.
Well engineered cloud-native platforms offer users almost very little downtime, as they can immediately deploy updates using multiple servers, instead of locking users out on a single server being updated.
Not all Clouds Are Created Equal
Simply being on the cloud doesn’t mean that a legal technology provider is using the cloud to its fullest potential. Taking existing technology and hosting it on the cloud is not the same as being cloud-native, or built for the cloud. Legal professionals looking for faster access to their data and uninterrupted workflows should consider cloud-native platforms when evaluating vendors.
As legal technology continues its march to the cloud, it is important for platforms to provide users with easy and uninterrupted access to data, quick scalability, integrated security, and robust analytics capabilities. All of these are hallmarks of cloud-native software, providing users with ultimate flexibility and convenience.