Is Microsoft OneDrive the Best Cloud Service For Law Firms?
Takeaway: OneDrive is the equivalent of a state-of-the-art digital filing cabinet, so it’s great for storing files. But for more in-depth document reviews, you’ll want to invest in a reliable eDiscovery application. It’ll come with tools like optical character recognition (OCR), an advanced search engine, document ‘tagging’ features, team collaboration tools, and a helpful ‘production’ wizard to prepare files for third-party review.
Law firms have to process an increasingly large amount of litigation data.
The US legal system brings about 350,000 new cases to court every year. And this means attorneys must regularly track updates like judicial rulings and precedents while interpreting what these events mean to the legislature. Further, valuable facts and insights are hidden within witness statements, judge’s summaries, court laws, etc., and clients’ electronically stored information (like emails, PDFs, Word documents, and more). So, as great as it is to see innovations in software for time management, billing, customer relations, etc., it’s equally important to find new ways of storing, processing, and reviewing big data.
Here’s where the Cloud can help – offering an easy-to-access source of near-limitless storage space.
The Cloud is a global network of computer servers belonging to software giants like Amazon and Google. And businesses store their data in the Cloud because it’s easy to access and cost-effective (since everyone splits the bill for using cloud servers). Small law firms, in particular, love the Cloud because cloud providers handle all the hardware, software, technical troubleshooting, and cyber security issues. And team members can access the Cloud from anywhere (the office, home, the airport, etc.) – all they’ll need is a laptop/phone and an internet connection.
Importantly, there are many cloud applications to choose from, and Microsoft’s OneDrive is a popular one.
The best part of cloud computing is the many competing cloud providers like DropBox, iCloud, Google Drive, Box, Amazon Drive, etc. And this competition guarantees us the best service. But Microsoft OneDrive is one of the more popular options because it’s the default cloud storage for Windows users, offering a storage range anywhere from 5 GB (the ‘free’ plan) to 6 TB (the highest ‘paid’ plan)! So, it’s ideal for storing personal items like photos, videos, music, documents, etc. Further, there’s OneDrive for Business, which ties into the Office 365 suite and is packed with valuable collaboration features.
OneDrive is perfect for law firms because of its range of storage and sharing features.
OneDrive lets you create new folders for each client with a few mouse clicks. And you can assign access permissions to users depending on how involved they are with a particular client. Also, team members can work on documents simultaneously, with each file (Excel, PowerPoint, Word, etc.) automatically syncing with Office 365 in real-time. And OneDrive ties in with Microsoft Teams, letting users start video chats while reviewing documents.
But remember, OneDrive is the equivalent of a digital filing cabinet. It’s designed to store files, not review them.
OneDrive is an example of ‘basic’ cloud storage. It lets you store and organize digital files the way you would with paper files in a filing cabinet. So, it does all the electronic equivalents of things you’d expect from a top-of-the-line digital filing cabinet. For example, it has two-factor authentication for security, where you’ll need two bits of identifying information to log in. It has a space-saving feature called Files On-Demand, where you can choose to store files only online, with no synced versions on your computer. And it has a version history tool that keeps backups of the original versions of documents you edit. These features are great if you just want somewhere to store files. But they’re not enough if you want to do things like search for niche keyword phrases or tag documents that have common themes.
For more advanced file reviews, you’ll need tools that only specialized cloud eDiscovery software can offer.
Cloud eDiscovery applications offer a range of vital review tools that OneDrive doesn’t. And these tools help with law-firm essentials like eDiscovery. For example, here are some eDiscovery tools you’ll get only with specialized software.
1. Optical character recognition (OCR) to make paper documents digital.
Your law firm likely still deals with paper documents that you’ll scan and convert into an electronic form. But these scanned versions are really just photographs of the originals, not actual text documents that your software can ‘read.’ So, you’ll need eDiscovery software with optical character recognition to convert scanned files into a review-friendly format. Learn more about OCR.
2. A powerful ‘advanced’ search engine to find niche files.
OneDrive has a basic search engine to search through filenames. But eDiscovery search engines can search everything in your case – i.e., file names, file contents, emails, email attachments, address books, contact lists, file metadata, and more. Plus, you can give these search engines ‘advanced’ search commands to find keyword combinations. For example, you’d be able to find niche files with a command like, “Find all emails Martin McFly sent Jennifer Parker, which mention the High Valley incident. And which were sent before 2015.” Learn more about eDiscovery searches.
3. ‘Tags’ to help group and organize your files.
eDiscovery applications will help you group and organize documents based on file type, content, themes, relevance, and more. And it’ll do this through ‘tags,’ which are virtual sticky notes you’ll attach to documents (or batches of documents) with a few mouse clicks. Learn more about eDiscovery tags.
4. Collaboration tools like notes, annotations, and comments.
eDiscovery teams should be able to review files together. And collaboration tools help host team discussions from within the eDiscovery browser rather than flooding each teammate’s email inbox or chat threads. So, teams can attach notes to documents, annotate specific paragraphs/pages, and leave comments with feedback and suggestions. Learn more about eDiscovery collaboration tools.
5. A range of eDiscovery ‘production’ options.
The best eDiscovery applications come with a helpful ‘production wizard’ to help you convert reviewed files into a formal ‘production.’ You’ll be able to choose a production format (i.e., native files, PDFs, TIFFs, or a mix), redact privileged content, and add Bates numbers and stamps. Plus, you’ll be able to share links to completed productions – links that you can invalidate at any point to protect your productions. Learn more about eDiscovery productions.
So, for anything more than just storing files, consider moving beyond OneDrive and invest in reliable eDiscovery software instead.
Most eDiscovery applications come loaded with all the review tools we’ve covered, and the better ones help you switch seamlessly between them. For example, GoldFynch is an eDiscovery subscription service designed to simplify every aspect of eDiscovery. And it’s got a lot going for it. For instance:
- It costs just $25 a month for a 3 GB case: That’s significantly less than most comparable software. With GoldFynch, you know exactly what you’re paying for: 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.