What Are Databases In eDiscovery?

13 June 2021 by UV eDiscovery database

Takeaway: Databases are a way of converting the chaotic data in files and documents into a rigidly structured form that computers can process. Think of them as a more complex version of a spreadsheet table, with each spreadsheet cell representing a database ‘field.’ Databases transform how we review Discovery data, allowing us to sift through hundreds of GBs in just seconds. The trick is to find eDiscovery software that can harness their power but remain easy to use.

Think of databases as a highly structured way of organizing seemingly chaotic information.

eDiscovery is all about data, but data can be pretty chaotic. For example, the data you get from clients is usually a random mix of files and documents – you’ll have PDFs, Word documents, emails, spreadsheets, TIFFs and more. There’s valuable information in them, but it’s set up for us humans to read – not for computers to process. Instead, computers first need to slot all this information into behind-the-scenes databases. Imagine these databases as a spreadsheet, with rows and rows of cells. So, when you upload files, your eDiscovery software strategically breaks them down into information fragments and plugs these fragments into the database’s cells (also called ‘fields’).

By creating order from chaos, your software can now take over a lot of eDiscovery grunt work.

Before electronic discovery (eDiscovery), attorneys would have to spend weeks dredging through boxfuls of paper documents. And they’d do this with the most basic tools – usually just a highlighter and some post-its. But nowadays, we can search through gigabytes of data in seconds! And it’s all because of databases. For example, by slotting data into a database, our eDiscovery software now has a list of keywords we can search for. And it can find keyword combinations, too. Say you want to find emails sent between two custodians – John and Jenna. The combined power of databases and Boolean searches lets you give a highly specific search command like, “Show me the emails John Krasinski sent Jenna Fischer, which mention the ‘Golden Ticket’ venture. And which were also sent before 2014.” Your software wouldn’t be able to isolate and combine these specific terms without a vast database of discrete ‘fields’ to search through.

Databases help combine bonus ‘metadata’ information with a document’s main contents.

When we work on a document, the application we’re using tacks on some bonus information. For example, Microsoft Word will record when the document was created, which user created it, when it was last opened, and so on. This data that adds context to a file is called ‘metadata’ (i.e., data about data). It’s a digital footprint tracking the history of each document in your case. There are hundreds of metadata types but they become usable only when plugged into a database. Once that’s done, we can search through metadata fields just as we would with human-generated content.

The email example we looked at earlier is a perfect instance of how databases can leverage the power of metadata.

We could track John and Jenna’s emails because our eDiscovery software could scan the ‘sender’ metadata field in its email database. And it could zero in on emails sent before 2014 by scanning the ‘date sent’ metadata field. This is a relatively simple example, really. To take it a step further, we could include more advanced metadata fields like John or Jenna’s GPS location (from their smartphone). With that sort of information plugged into a database, we could even verify where they were when they sent an email!

Databases are also why it’s vital to use eDiscovery software with inbuilt OCR.

When we scan paper documents, they’re converted into image files like TIFFs or PDFs. We humans can read the text in these images but our eDiscovery software can see only a ‘picture’ of the text. And it can’t slot a picture into its database. That’s where optical character recognition (OCR) comes in. It converts the image of the scanned text into digital data that our software can then process. You can find stand-alone OCR applications but it’s so much more convenient when they come built into your eDiscovery software.

Now that we know what databases are, it’s easier to understand what a ‘load file’ is.

Databases have evolved over the last decade and are now pretty low maintenance. But they used to need something called a ‘load file’ – which would help signpost which bits of information would go where in a database. With Cloud eDiscovery, you won’t need load files anymore. But make sure your software can still handle them because they’re often a part of many productions from legacy applications.

At GoldFynch, we’ve worked to optimize eDiscovery databases to create powerful but simple software.

Databases might be a potent tool, but they’re only as good as the eDiscovery software using them. GoldFynch is an eDiscovery service that harnesses the power of databases, while still being easy to use. That’s why it’s perfect for small- and midsize law firms and companies that don’t have time to learn how to use complicated software.

  • It costs just $10 a month for a 1 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 (1 GB to 150+ GB) and know up-front how much you’ll be paying. You can upload and cull as much data as you want, as long as you stay below your storage limit. And even if you do cross the limit, you can upgrade your plan with just a few clicks. Also, 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 a 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, you get prompt and reliable tech support.
  • Access it from anywhere, and 24/7. All your files are backed up and secure in the Cloud.

Want to find out more about GoldFynch?