Software as a Service, referred to as SaaS, is one of many service models based on cloud computing that has become prevalent in the last decade. An often quoted definition of SaaS is, “a software distribution model in which a third-party provider hosts applications and makes them available to customers over the Internet.” (Definition: Software as a Service (SaaS), 2016) In many cases, the provider is not actually hosting anything but instead leveraging a third-party hosting (cloud) solution such as Amazon Web Service (AWS), Google Cloud Platform, or Microsoft Azure to offer the software of choice.
The benefits of using one of these technology giants’ cloud environments speak for themselves, especially in the risk averse industry of ediscovery. These benefits are vetted enterprise systems that ensure the security and isolation of each deployment, economies of scale with both lower cost and better load balancing, and wide reaching and multi-faceted disaster recovery systems. Furthermore, there are a few game-changing differentiators when using SaaS products compared to the more traditional licensed software model. They include reduced cost, continuous software update management, and easy maintenance.
Cost: SaaS services are generally offered at a subscription rate. There are no hardware (or even software) costs up front, versus the one-time fixed cost of traditional software. As more capacity is needed, it is almost instantaneously achieved, oftentimes with minimal financial investment (compared to a direct purchase).
Updates: Unlike traditional software where large updates are saved and released once every few years, SaaS updates are continually released as they are tested and made available. Software updates in SaaS are deployed and managed by the vendor so, from a user perspective, it’s one less thing to worry about and manage. The user won’t need to balance downtime for a software upgrade with a critical security update that is only included in the newest version. That will all be managed by the SaaS provider.
Maintenance: All infrastructure deployments are hosted and maintained by the SaaS provider so there is no infrastructure hassle or work required on the client side. Each deployment is isolated so that the client gets to control who has access to enter their deployment and touch their data. In other words, the client can manage their environment so that not even the provider can access their data even though the provider is maintaining their environment — the best of both worlds!
Despite the benefits, ediscovery is slow to adopt SaaS for the same reason as many other advancements in legal technology — the potential legal risks they present. When researching your options for SaaS solutions, be sure to:
- discuss where your data is actually going to be located in case it has any legal implications for you (jurisdiction or privacy considerations);
- conduct a security assessment or request a security summary from the cloud provider; and
- have a clear understanding of where the liability line is between you, the vendor (of the SaaS offering), and the cloud provider (if it’s different from the vendor).
While ediscovery has been slow to transition to the cloud, just like winter, Jon Snow (of Game of Thrones), it is coming. More and more corporations are transitioning to cloud-based solutions like Microsoft Office 365 and where they lead, their legal teams will follow. By Legalweek New York 2018, I am sure we will all be floating in the cloud in some way or another.
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