Migrated from eDJGroupInc.com. Author: Barry Murphy. Published: 2010-02-11 05:53:32Format, images and links may no longer function correctly. One of the hot topics at LegalTech 2010 was cloud computing. “The cloud,” as we like to refer to it, promises to offer cost savings and other efficiencies – in an economy obsessed with cost reduction, the buzz around the cloud is not surprising.

Much like Early Cases Assessment (the other big-buzz topic of LegalTech 2010), however, the cloud is a source of confusion for most eDiscovery practitioners.  While vendors conduct a land-grab for customers and data (more on this later), end-user are left wondering exactly what the cloud is and how it might play into their strategies for proactively managing information.

Sadly, even the hard-core IT community does not agree on what “the cloud” actually is.   InfoWorld has a good article – What Cloud Computing Really Means – that breaks the cloud into many parts:

–       Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) – delivering an application such as word processing through the browser

–       Utility computing – storage and virtual server accessible on demand, e.g. Amazon S3

–       Web services in the cloud – APIs that enable developers to exploit functionality over the Web

–       Platform-as-a-Service – development environments delivered as a service

–       Managed Service Providers (MSP) – applications delivered to IT departments rather than end-users, e.g. email virus scanning

–       Service Commerce Platforms – a service hub that users interact with

–       Internet integration – integration of various cloud-based services

In the context of eDiscovery and information management, the most relevant components of the cloud are utility computing, SaaS, MSPs, and Web services in the cloud.  For this journal entry, let’s focus on utility computing.

(Editors note: at this time, I’m not going to wade into the argument over whether the cloud includes public cloud, private cloud, hybrid clouds, all of the above, or none of the above. Some argue that the cloud is only the public, shared resources that offer economies of scale and that private clouds are really just a fancy way of giving a new name to corporate networks.  It’s open for interpretation, but this article is not the right time for that debate.)

I would argue that, tactically, utility computing offers the most promise to organizations in the short-term.  Using the efficiencies of the cloud, organizations can more cost-effectively store the huge amounts of information they are generating.  Anyone in the email archiving world knows that on-premise email archiving has a hard time delivering storage cost benefits.  But, the cloud can be a much cheaper way to store information in the long-term.  Just look at the difference in pricing between hosted and on-premise email archiving solutions.  While on-premise software often sells in the $20 per mailbox range, hosted solutions routinely cost less than $5 per mailbox.  In this economy, such a price differential cannot be overlooked.

For this reason, there is a lot of vendor activity in the cloud.  There are many surging hosted email archiving vendors on the scene now, including LiveOffice, MimeCast, and Sonian Networks in addition to hosted offerings from larger companies such as Autonomy and Microsoft.  Even on-premise software vendors are focusing more on the cloud.  While Autonomy shifts focus from its on-premise EAS archiving software to its Digital Safe and DSMail hosted archiving, others such as Mimosa Systems looking to add on a hosted component (either organically or though partners).  In Mimosa’s case, it’s via partnership with LiveOffice.

If the rumors of an Iron Mountain acquisition of Mimosa are true, it will only shine more light on the hosted email archiving world.  It will also open up the convergence of archiving and backup and put hype around backup in the cloud.  Just think of a world without the need for backup tape because backups are stored in the cloud (cost-effectively) and are more easily retrievable, at least in theory.

The large software vendors – EMC, IBM, HP, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP – are all in various stages of building out cloud strategies.  None have definitively stated what that strategy is vis-à-vis eDiscovery and information management, which means that the next 18-24 months will make for an interesting time for startups in this space.  Right now, the game is about getting customers and getting more and more data under management.  Soon enough, the game will shift into what the cloud vendor can do with that data, i.e. how to make it actionable for business consumption.  We’ll look into that in part 2 of this article.  For now, think about this take-away: the storage cost savings that the cloud promises could be the entry point for your organizations cloud strategy.  Let us know if we can be of assistance in helping you determine how best to leverage “the cloud.”

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