eDiscovery Pricing 101: Paying Flat Rates Vs. À La Carte [Per-GB Costs, OCR, Processing Fees, and More]

10 August 2020 by Mithun eDiscovery pricing processing rates affordable

Takeaway: eDiscovery providers charge you either for (1) Uploading data – i.e., you pay for each GB you upload, or (2) Storing data – i.e., you pay for a fixed amount of Cloud storage space. Both options seem to offer transparent pricing, but as your case shrinks and expands, you’ll notice that paying for uploads ends up costing more. So, where possible, choose a storage-based, prorated pricing plan.

eDiscovery providers usually offer one of two broad pricing strategies.

You can:

  1. Pay for what you store (i.e., storage space). It’s also called ‘fixed volume’ pricing, and here, Cloud storage space is divided into chunks (or ‘plans’) – e.g. 3 GB, 5 GB, 10 GB, etc. Prices for these plans are set in advance and you choose the one that’ll best hold your case.
  2. Pay for what you upload. It’s also called per-GB’ (or, ‘pay as you go’) pricing. And here, there aren’t any ‘plans.’ However big or small your case is, your bill is calculated based on what you upload, using a per-GB rate.

Most attorneys assume that it’s smarter to pay (once) upfront for uploads, instead of paying (monthly) for storage space. But it’s not that simple.

With the ‘pay for storage’ model, you’re basically leasing digital storage space. So, you’re paying a regular monthly subscription fee. With the ‘pay for uploads’ model, you get the paying over with (mostly) upfront. That seems so much fairer, right? Yes, in theory. But in practice, it doesn’t quite work out like that.

That’s because of the complexity of eDiscovery ‘processing.’

When you upload files into your eDiscovery software, there’s a lot of ‘processing’ that goes on in the background. That’s what you’re paying for in the ‘pay for uploads’ pricing model.

For example, your software has to filter out time-wasting duplicate files and system files (e.g., .EXE files, font files, Windows system files). Then, it needs to convert documents into a standard format so you can open them all in your eDiscovery application. And finally, it extracts embedded files and file metadata. (Learn more about eDiscovery processing.)

The thing is, you don’t know what’s in your eDiscovery case until you upload it and see the ‘processed’ version.

Your clients’ data is usually a mix of all kinds of files – PSTs, ZIP files, unnecessary duplicates or entire hard-drives’ worth of information. You won’t really know until you’ve unpacked the files. And the best place to do that is in your eDiscovery software because its search engine can search across all file types. So, you upload the files, figure out which ones you need, and delete the rest.

by then, you’ve already paid your ‘per-GB’ rate for all the files you uploaded. Even if you immediately delete most of them.

This is when the ‘pay for uploads’ model starts to lose its appeal. Say you get 1.5 terabytes’ worth of files from your client and whittle that down to a respectable 200 GB. The fact that you now have a relatively small case is irrelevant. You’ve already paid for 1.5 terabytes’ worth of processing. At $20 per GB (a usual rate), that’s $30,000 upfront for data that you promptly deleted! Entirely unfair, right? (In a while, we’ll see how with a different pricing system, that $30,000 is enough to cover 2.5 years of subscription fees!)

So, to cut costs, you might end up deciding in advance which files to cull. And this messes with eDiscovery.

eDiscovery is an art. You’re building a story around your case, asking questions like ‘What happened? Who is involved? What did they do? How are they connected to each other?’ and so on. This is a complex, partly-intuitive process, and there’s a clear order to things: (1) Upload your files, (2) Explore them, and finally (3) Cull the files you don’t need. But paying per-GB fees for uploads flips this process. You’re acutely aware of the cost of each file you upload, so you start culling first. And this messes with the quality of your eDiscovery. Some ‘per-GB’ eDiscovery providers offer lower rates for ‘early case assessment,’ but this workaround is unnecessarily complicated.

There is a more elegant alternative: Pay for storage space instead of uploads.

It’s the first pricing option we looked at. Here, the uploading (and processing) part is totally free. Instead, you only pay for storage space. You’ll choose from a bunch of case plans (3 GB, 5 GB, 10 GB, etc.) and their prices have been set in advance.

It turns out that paying for storage is significantly more cost-effective than paying for uploads.

Let’s throw in some real numbers and see for ourselves.

Here’s a scenario where you add files to a case, delete some of them, and then add some more.

  1. Imagine you get 95 GBs of documents, in multiple formats.
  2. 10 days later you delete some of them. You suddenly realize that you’ve been given the wrong version of one of the ZIP files (50 GBs), so you delete it. Now you’re left with just 45 GBs of data.
  3. Then, after 5 days, you upload 50 GBs of data. You’re given the correct version of the ZIP file, so you upload it again. Now you’re back to 95 GBs of data.

So, how much would all this cost you? Much less, when you use the ‘pay for storage’ model.

When you pay for uploads: $2900.

  • Let’s take a standard $20 per-GB rate
  • You’ve uploaded a total of 145 GB (95 GB initially, then 50 GB when you replaced the ZIP file)
  • Which means you pay $2900 [(95 + 50) x $20]

When you pay for storage: $552.50.

Let’s use eDiscovery software GoldFynch’s pricing as an example.

  1. Your initial 95 GB fits its ‘100 GB’ case option ($600/month, prorated), which you use for those first 10 days
  2. Then you delete 50 GB, so you’re automatically downgraded to a 50 GB case ($315/month, prorated) for 5 days
  3. Finally, you re-upload 50 GB (for free) and you’re back to the 100 GB case plan for the rest of the month

Since the pricing is prorated, you pay only for the days you spend on any given plan.

Here’s the math: 100 GB plan ($600 / month) for 10 days + 50 GB plan ($315 / month) for 5 days + 100 GB plan ($600 / month ) for 15 days. That boils down to (600x 10/30) + (315 x 5/30) + (600 x 15/30) = 552.50

But isn’t there a tipping point? What about really large cases? Isn’t it better to use the ‘pay for uploads’ model there?

There’s a rule-of-thumb floating around the internet: ‘For cases above 300 GB, it’s better to pay for uploads rather than storage, because larger storage plans cost more in the long run.’ The problem is, they’re assuming that all the 300 GBs are gold. But you can’t know that until the files are processed and unpacked. So, find a cost-effective ‘pay for storage’ eDiscovery vendor to upload and unpack your files (for free), and then see what you need to keep. It’s a much more flexible approach than deciding in advance what you want to do with files you haven’t yet looked through.

The best part of the ‘pay for storage’ model is that there aren’t any other fees for the essentials.

You pay a monthly subscription fee based on your case volume (i.e., the amount of storage space your files take up, after being decompressed – i.e., ‘unzipped’). There are no fees for all the essentials like OCR, file processing, using load files, handling different document types, creating productions, etc. And you can choose to pay for some non-essential add-on services (like faster processing or specialized customer care) if you want them. With the ‘pay for uploads’ model, you may have a fixed per-GB rate for your uploads, but end up paying à la carte for most essential services.

Interested in predictable, storage-based eDiscovery pricing? Try GoldFynch.

It prioritizes things that matter to small and midsize law firms like yours. That’s why:

  • It costs just $27 a month for a 3 GB case: That’s significantly less than most comparable software. 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 charges only for storage (processing is free). So, choose from a range of plans (3 GB to 150+ GB) and know up front how much you’ll be paying. It takes just a few clicks to move from one plan to another, and billing is prorated – so you’ll pay only for the time you spend on any given plan. With legacy software, pricing is much less predictable.
  • It takes just minutes to get going. GoldFynch 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 trial case (0.5 GB of data and processing cap of 1 GB), without adding a credit card.
  • It’s simple to use. Many eDiscovery applications take hours to master. GoldFynch takes minutes. It handles a lot of complex processing in the background, but what you see is minimal and intuitive. Just drag-and-drop your files into GoldFynch and you’re good to go. Plus, it’s designed, developed, and run by the same team. So you get prompt and reliable tech support.
  • It keeps you flexible. To build a defensible case, you need to be able to add and delete files freely. Many applications charge to process each file you upload, so you’ll be reluctant to let your case organically shrink and grow. And this stifles you. With GoldFynch, you get unlimited processing for free. So, on a 1 GB plan, you could add and delete 5 GB of data at no extra cost – as long as there’s only 1 GB in your case at any point. And if you do cross 1 GB, your plan upgrades automatically and you’ll be charged for only the time spent on each plan. That’s the beauty of prorated pricing.
  • Access it from anywhere. And 24/7. All your files are backed up and secure in the Cloud.

Want to learn more about GoldFynch?