Are You Overpaying for eDiscovery? [Here's What Most Attorneys Miss]

13 September 2020 by Ross eDiscovery affordable

Takeaway: Your cases continually grow and shrink as part of the flow of eDiscovery. So, pricing plans that charge for data uploads might offer low and attractive per-GB rates, but end up being very expensive. Instead, choose a plan that charges for storage only (i.e., uploading is free). It cuts costs and makes eDiscovery so much more flexible.

Most law firms focus on the wrong thing when choosing eDiscovery software. They focus on the per-GB rate for uploading data.

Sure, having all the right tools and features is important. But all else being equal, you want the more cost-effective eDiscovery software. And one way of doing this is to compare ‘per-GB’ upload rates. That is, the cost of uploading each gigabyte of data into your software. You’d think that a low per-GB rate means more affordable eDiscovery, right?

But focusing on per-GB upload rates is a rookie mistake. It distracts you from something much more important: ‘How much data do you upload over the entire lifespan of the case?’

That’s because eDiscovery cases are constantly in flux. They expand and shrink as part of their natural life cycle.

1. Your case automatically expands as soon as you upload data.

You’ll get all sorts of electronically stored information (ESI) from your clients – a mixture of emails, Word documents, Excel sheets, images, PDFs and more. But many of them have sub-files that expand when ‘unpacked.’ Here are some examples:

  • Emails and their attachments. The email is the ‘parent’, and the attachments are the ‘children’ sub-files.
  • Documents with embedded files. For example, a PowerPoint presentation might have video clips (sub-files) in it.
  • Space-saving ‘container files’ with compressed content: For example, RARs, ZIPs, and PSTs (for emails). In fact, an average PST will expand to 1.75–2 times its original size when its emails are extracted!

2. Your case will shrink, too, as unnecessary files get deleted.

You’ll usually end up deleting duplicate and system files.

  • Duplicate files. Say your client’s head of HR – Michael – emails a policy-change document to everyone in the organization. You’ll find the same document on his computer, the computers of other employees, and attached to emails sitting in inboxes, servers, and backup drives. You’ll need just one copy of this file. The rest, you’ll delete.
  • System files. Your computer needs a range of specialized files, to run smoothly. But these files don’t have any reviewable content for us users. For example, each piece of hardware we attach to a computer (printers, keyboards, etc.) comes with its own ‘driver’ files. Then there are ‘executable’ (i.e., EXE) files that launch applications, and DLLs, INIs, CHMs, etc., that run the applications. There are (literally) millions of these ‘system’ file types, but they weren’t created by your custodians, they aren’t connected to your case, and they don’t have any readable material. So, there’s no point in having them clutter your case and distract you.

3. You’ll also notice your case organically shrink and grow as part of the eDiscovery process.

As a case evolves, you’ll inevitably have to add new files and delete others. For example, your client might have overlooked a custodian or forgotten about a valuable cache sitting on a rarely-used server. You’ll now need to upload these files into your software. But when you review them, you might realize they don’t have anything of value. And so you’ll delete them. All this expansion and contraction is part of the pulse of eDiscovery.

Now that we’ve seen how cases continuously grow and shrink, let’s look at why a per-GB rate can be wildly misleading.

Imagine you get 95 GBs of data from a client. At a standard $20 per-GB rate, that’s $1900 to upload the data into your eDiscovery software. Payment handled, right? Nope. 10 days later you delete a 50-GB ZIP file because it’s not the one you wanted. Now you’re left with just 45 GBs of data. Then, after 4 days, you get the correct version of that ZIP file and upload it – another 50 GBs of data. This gets you back to where you started – i.e., 95 GBs. But how much did you upload in total? 95 GBs + 50 GBs = 145 GBs. So, what do you end up paying? Not $1900 like you’d calculated. You’ll pay a respectable $2900! That’s $1000 more than you’d budgeted for, over just 2 weeks! Imagine what a few months will look like.

So, that’s the problem. And here’s the solution: Quit paying for uploads and pay for storage instead.

eDiscovery providers usually offer one of two broad pricing strategies. The first, which we’ve just looked at, is to pay for uploads. But the other strategy is to pay for data storage instead (and upload your files for free). Here, you’ll choose an eDiscovery ‘plan’ that gives you a chunk of storage space on Cloud servers. Common plans would be 3 GB, 5 GB, 10 GB, etc., and their prices have all been set in advance. Here’s an example of storage-based pricing.

With storage-based pricing, your case can shrink and grow freely.

All that matters is how much storage space you use. Let’s revisit our earlier example, but use a pay-for-storage pricing model instead of the pay-for-uploads one. What would that look like? Your client gives you 95 GB of data, which will fit perfectly in a 100 GB case plan. You delete the 50 GB ZIP file (you were given the wrong one), then add the new 50 GB replacement. The cost of all of that? $0. Because you haven’t exceeded the 100 GB case plan limit. Learn more about storage-based pricing.

Think you might be overpaying for eDiscovery? Try GoldFynch, instead.

It’s an eDiscovery service that 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.