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Taking e-Discovery to the Cloud: Insights from Ricoh

Sameer Doshi

The rate at which companies across all industries are migrating to the cloud is staggering—and it’s not slowing down. At the same time, massive data volumes and more frequent litigation are placing heavier e-discovery demands on IT infrastructures. For some, moving to the cloud is a great way to balance those demands with greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Ricoh, an Orange-level Relativity Best in Service Partner, recently migrated their Relativity environment to the cloud. To learn more about their experience, we sat down with David Greetham, vice president of e-discovery operations at Ricoh Forensics.

Sameer: What was the deciding factor in moving your environment to the cloud?

David: There were several deciding factors, some stronger than others. The biggest influencer for us, though, is scalability. If we wanted to add a server or 100 TBs of storage in our previous environment, the process took several weeks. Now, it takes several minutes. That allows us to react more quickly to client requirements. We want to be their business partners and help them out when they have urgent needs—not tell them “Yes, but it’ll take a few weeks.”

Another big one was enhanced security. That’s an important upgrade for our customers, and certain requirements go into a hosting relationship with government agencies, for example. Our new infrastructure puts us in a position to obtain the necessary certifications more easily because of the way our Microsoft Azure environment is set up.

We also looked at the disaster recovery options and failover procedures that come with a cloud deployment. There are new requirements for Relativity Best in Service status that are simpler for us to accomplish in a Microsoft data center.

Logistically, as the world modernizes and we look at more ways to achieve higher performance at better costs and with greater efficiencies, we knew this made sense. We got reassurance from Relativity that your team would be able to support us and provide expertise as we migrated and invested in this type of environment, and that made us comfortable with our decision.

How did your customers react to the migration?

We found some clients still didn’t understand what the cloud really is. That was the biggest surprise for me. But when we broke it down, it was really about conveying to them that we were moving our data from one physical address to another—that’s it. Once we got that across, the response was positive. They’re very pleased with the security features, especially in protecting their sensitive data.

In fact, that was one of the main things we spent a lot of time talking about: increased encryption. There wasn’t a concern there—clients were just curious about how it worked and what it meant, covering features like encryption at rest (which protects data even when it isn’t moving between data stores) and disaster recovery.

For us, it was important to seek their feedback directly. Instead of just saying we’ve moved and it’s great, we worked with them to understand what their concerns were and convey why we thought this was the best approach. Overall, we found our customers understood this as a major upgrade for our environment.

What is different about your day-to-day business operations now that your environment is in the cloud?

There are some significant differences we’ve seen so far. Our performance is better—doc-to-doc review speeds are much improved. Everyone knows those stats are really dependent on your environment and setup, and though our past performance was good, our clients are telling us that the cloud has improved it for them.

We’re more efficient because we’re not spending time on the logistics of a traditional environment. From a client perspective—and our goal is always to give them the best service we can at a fair price—the scalability has been huge. Our staff agrees. When they notice we need to increase storage 15 percent, it’s such an easy thing to do now. We can spin it up as we need it—and we can spin it back down. We don’t have to invest in the hardware long-term, so it’s a whole new mindset.

What advice would you offer other teams looking to move their environments to the cloud?

If you’re seeing reluctance among your team or customers, help them understand what you’re doing really thoroughly. We migrated for the benefits we knew our customers ultimately wanted, but we took the time to create videos and training materials, and communicate with our clients to make sure they understood what cloud migration would entail.

Fight the misconception that customers won’t know where their data is. We know the physical address and where our data resides, and that functions similarly to having our own data center. The move to the cloud is really just a data center migration. Effectively, clients were in our cloud before; now we’re in the cloud with Azure. It’s helping us manage our environment, not risk it.

Finally, it would be a folly to think that this is a super easy, out-of-the-box process. We were running Azure projects for 15 months before our migration, and we’re fortunate to have Azure expertise in-house.

So it took a lot of setup and prep to get this working correctly. Having the right talent has been key.

That said, all the work has really been worth it. Our scalability and performance are better, we can customize our environment and meet client needs more easily, and it’s cost-effective for us.

David Greetham is vice president of e-discovery operations at Ricoh Forensics, where he leads a team of forensics and e-discovery professionals supporting customer needs and optimizing business processes. He has more than 20 years of experience in computer forensics and investigations and has provided expert witness testimony nationally and internationally.