Why Is Free, Automatic eDiscovery Processing Such a Big Deal?

02 January 2022 by Anith eDiscovery processing

Takeaway: Your eDiscovery files need to be processed before you can review them. And this is a complicated task that influences every aspect of your eDiscovery review. That’s why many vendors charge high rates to process your files, and it’s also why free, automatic eDiscovery processing is such a big deal. You’ll get the same processing quality but with a significantly lower monthly eDiscovery bill.

‘Free, automatic eDiscovery processing’ sounds like a throwaway marketing term. But it’s actually quite a big deal.

eDiscovery applications use behind-the-scenes mechanisms to process all the files you upload. And it’s easy to overlook just how complicated this is. We all know that electronic data is essentially a string of binary zeroes and ones, but what does that really mean? And how do those zeroes and ones turn into reviewable emails, documents, images, etc.? Well, it all comes down to how digital data is processed – and a single mistake here can quite literally ruin your entire case.

To understand eDiscovery processing, we’ll need to take a quick detour to explore computer languages versus human languages.

We humans count using a ‘base 10’ system. That is, we build complex number sequences using just 10 numbers (i.e., 0 through to 9). And we most likely chose the base-10 system because we have 10 fingers. Computers are different, though. They’re built on circuits that are either ‘on’ or ‘off,’ which means theirs is a ‘base 2’ system. They see the world as either ‘0’ (a circuit that’s ‘off’) or ‘1’ (a circuit that’s ‘on’). And this is the root of their binary language. They have ‘bits’ (i.e., the ‘Binary digits’ of 0 and 1) which combine to form bytes (i.e., a string of 8 bits).

Computers might see the world in binary, but long strings of zeroes and ones are a pain for us humans. So, we developed ways of shortening binary expressions.

Binary annoyingly takes up a lot of space. For example, the word ‘E-Discovery’ in binary is ‘0100010100101101010001000110100101110011011000110110111101110110011001010111 001001111001.’ And so, programmers developed a way of shortening binary by using a base-16 system instead of binary’s base-2. They called this the hexadecimal system (‘hex’ for short), and it’s a combination of numbers (0 to 9) and letters (A to F). So, ‘E-Discovery’ in hex becomes ‘0x45 2D 44 69 73 63 6F 76 65 72 797.’ Much simpler, right?

But, short or long, these are still strings of numbers and letters. So, how do we convert complex human language into these strings? Here’s where ‘encoding’ comes in.

‘Encoding’ is a way of translating (i.e., converting) words and symbols into numbers. It’s the bridge between human and computer languages, and it’s a hugely important part of eDiscovery because translation errors can change a document’s contents. That’s why programmers have developed systematic coding mechanisms like Unicode (which standardizes the characters, symbols, and emojis of 150 languages).

Now it’s easier to understand why eDiscovery processing is such a big deal. Because without it, you wouldn’t be able to do even the simplest eDiscovery tasks.

It’s by ‘processing’ files that eDiscovery applications can translate human language into machine language. Without this translation (i.e., encoding), they wouldn’t be able to plug data into its database. And without that database, you wouldn’t be able to do essential eDiscovery tasks like searching case files (for keywords, names, dates, metadata, etc.), tagging related documents, and redacting privileged information.

And there’s more to processing than simply coding/decoding files. Here’s a sample of what else your software has to do.

The best eDiscovery applications cycle through the following tasks instantly every time you upload files.

  1. Decompress container files like ZIPs and PSTs. These files are convenient ways of grouping, compressing, and storing files and emails so that they’re easier to archive, process, and share. Learn more about container files and archives.
  2. Identify file types. Every application creates a custom type of file. For instance, Microsoft Word files are structured differently from Adobe PDFs. But how does your computer know which application to use for which file type? Well, as part of the encoding/decoding process, it looks at indicators like file extensions and MIME, which tell it how to decode and store the data. That’s why it’s worth finding eDiscovery software that can handle a wide range of file types. Otherwise, you’ll upload a batch of important files and then realize your software won’t process the rarer file types.
  3. Extract & clean up text from the files (depending on their file type). Once your eDiscovery software has identified the file type, it can figure out which coding/publishing standard to use to extract the text and slot it into a database. It’ll also need to clean up the text in the process, which means doing things like removing punctuation and stop words (i.e., words like ‘the’ and ‘a’ that help with grammar but don’t add much meaning to sentences).
  4. Render the files (i.e., convert or modify them) so that users can annotate and redact them. Your software will also need to optimize these rendered versions to load quickly.
  5. Match production parameters. Some files come in as productions, so your software will need to match them with the production parameters (using load files) to make sure they’re structured right.

There’s a lot at stake here because processing errors can make you miss vital files without knowing it.

If your software uses the wrong code while processing files, it might not pull up responsive documents even if you’ve designed the perfect search. So you’d overlook a game-changing email or contract and not know it. Also, processing errors might mean your data doesn’t get normalized properly, further ruining your review.

All this is pretty complicated, right? And that’s why many eDiscovery vendors charge to upload and process files.

Many eDiscovery pricing plans involve charging to upload and process files. The logic is that it takes effort to process each GB you upload, so it’s only fair that you pay for each of those GBs. The problem here is that eDiscovery cases grow and shrink organically, so paying for uploads can get quite expensive. For example, say you upload 10 GB, delete 5 GB of that data because you realize it’s irrelevant, and then upload another 5 GB of replacement data. If you’re paying for uploads, you’ve wasted money on those 5 GB that you didn’t end up needing.

This brings us to why ‘free, automatic processing’ is more than just a marketing term. Because it can dramatically change your monthly eDiscovery bills.

There’s an alternative to paying for uploads/processing. Some eDiscovery vendors offer free uploading/processing and charge for storage space instead. Let’s use this pricing model and revisit our earlier example. You’d still upload 10 GB, delete 5 GB, and upload the replacement 5 GB – but you’d pay nothing extra for all that activity. By subscribing to a 10 GB storage plan, you’d be able to upload and delete as many files as you want at no extra cost, as long as you stick to your 10 GB limit. (Of course, you could upgrade to a higher limit in seconds if you wanted.) This feature is crucial because it stops you from overthinking your uploads. And it’s why we chose a storage-based pricing system for our eDiscovery software GoldFynch.

There’s more to eDiscovery than just processing files, though. And here’s where software designed for small and midsize law firms can help.

At GoldFynch, we designed our Cloud eDiscovery service for small and midsize 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 files is free). So, choose from a range of plans (3 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?