What is ESI (Electronically Stored Information)? eDiscovery Basics for Small Law Firms

05 June 2019 by Anith Mathai eDiscovery small-law-firm ESI

Takeaway: Businesses run on electronically stored information (ESI) like Word documents, JPEGs, and emails. They’re so much easier to store, use, and protect than paper documents. Plus, they make eDiscovery simpler and faster. But the trick is finding an eDiscovery application that leverages ESI’s advantages. So, choose one that (1) Has automatic OCR, (2) Stores your data in the Cloud, (3) Protects metadata, and (4) Can open all file types.

What is ‘electronically stored information’ (ESI)?

It’s data you store on your computer. Things like documents, pictures, video, audio, emails, etc. Your computer doesn’t store these as ‘text,’ ‘images,’ ‘videos,’ and ‘sounds.’ It stores them as zeroes and ones – i.e., ‘bits.’ And it encodes these bits together into a ‘file’ (with a particular ‘format’) that’s opened by specific software. So, for example, the bits may be encoded with a ‘.docx’ file extension. This tells your computer to open it with Microsoft Word. If the file was encoded with a ‘.pdf’ extension, your computer would use Adobe Acrobat to open it. Here is ESI you’ll work with most:

  • Microsoft Word files (‘.docx’ extension)
  • PDFs (‘.pdf’ extension)
  • Images (‘.jpeg’ or ‘.gif’ or ‘.bmp’ or ‘.tiff’ extensions)
  • Emails (individual emails have a ‘.eml’ file extension. Email archives usually have a ‘.pst’ or ‘.mbox’ extension)

Why does ESI matter?

Because there’s so much of it, everywhere. Businesses now use ESI – like Word files and email – more than they do paper documents. And even when they use paper documents, they end up scanning them. So, all this electronic information needs electronic discovery (e-discovery). Which is why courts now regularly pass rulings to set eDiscovery standards.

ESI has some clear advantages when it comes to eDiscovery: 1. It takes up virtually no space A decade ago, a new case meant bankers boxes full of documents you’d have to review. And those boxes would take up a whole room. Now, all that information (and more) sits in a tiny hard drive. 2. It’s easy to review and organize It’d take days or weeks to sieve through that room full of documents. You’d read every page, scribble notes, and stick post-its to important sections – as a way of organizing the information. With ESI, a search engine finds you your files in seconds. And you’ll use tags (i.e., ‘virtual’ post-its) to help categorize them.
3. You can access it from anywhere. Imagine transporting 20 bankers boxes full of paper files! Instead, the latest eDiscovery applications store your data in the Cloud. Which means you can access them from anywhere – even on-the-go. All you’ll need is a laptop and an internet connection.
4. It’s easier to protect Storing electronic data in the Cloud is safer than keeping paper files in your office. Paper files get misplaced. They get damaged easily (in fires and floods). And they’re easy to steal. In contrast, electronic data in the Cloud is backed up on multiple servers and protected by bank-grade security. 5. It has bonus information that paper files don’t Electronic files have ‘metadata’ – i.e., data about the files themselves. This includes things like when the file was created, who created it, when it was last modified, etc. And all this extra data can help will cases.

How do I get the most out of ESI, for eDiscovery?

Choose the right eDiscovery software. Your software should:

  • Have automatic OCR. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is a software tool that converts scanned documents into text files that your eDiscovery software can search for keywords. Learn more about OCR.
  • Store your ESI in the Cloud. As we’ve seen, this makes it easier to access it. And it’s better protected than if it was on private servers. Learn more about why the Cloud is better than private servers.
  • Protect your metadata, because it gets damaged easily. For example, you’ll change the ‘last accessed’ metadata date if you open a file, copy a file to another computer, burn a file to CD or DVD, or forward an email. You’ll even modify hundreds of files just by booting up a computer that has evidence on it. Learn more about metadata.
  • Open all file types from the same browser window. Otherwise, you’d have multiple windows open – one each for Word documents, images, emails, PDFs, etc. And you’ll be continually shifting between them. Learn more about your eDiscovery application being able to open all file types.

Need eDiscovery software that helps you get the most out of your ESI? Try GoldFynch.

It’s a next-generation eDiscovery application that prioritizes things that matter to small law firms. That’s why:

  • It costs just $27 a month for a 3 GB case: That’s far less–every month–than the nearest comparable software. And hundreds of dollars less than many others. With GoldFynch, you know what you’re paying for exactly – its pricing is simple and readily available on the website.
  • It’s easy to budget for. GoldFynch has a flat, prorated rate. With legacy software, your bill changes depending on how much data you use. - It takes just minutes to get going. It runs in the Cloud, so you use it through your web browser (Google Chrome recommended). No installation. No sales calls or emails. Plus, you get a free, fully-functional trial case (0.5 GB of data and processing cap of 1 GB), without adding a credit card.
  • It can handle even the largest cases. GoldFynch scales from small to large, since it’s in the Cloud. So, choose from a range of case sizes (3 GB to 150 GB, and more) and don’t waste money on space you don’t need.
  • You can access it from anywhere. And 24/7. All your files are backed up and secure in the Cloud. And you can monitor its servers here.
  • You won’t have to worry about technical stuff. It’s designed, developed and run by the same team. So, its technical support isn’t outsourced. Which means you get prompt and reliable service.

Want to learn more about GoldFynch?