On Premise vs Cloud: How to Choose the Right eDiscovery Approach for Your Organization

The cloud has become so ingrained in modern society that we often forget just how many of our daily activities rely on it. From online banking to streaming services to social media, most of us are tapping into the cloud multiple times per day.

Many organizations run their business and legal operations—including their eDiscovery processes—from the cloud as well. According to ComplexDiscovery, approximately 55% of global eDiscovery software spending, totalling $2.63 billion, went to off-premise or cloud-based software in 2022. That percentage is expected to increase to 73%, or $6.35 billion, by 2027.

So, what’s the difference between on-premise and cloud-based eDiscovery software, and why do some organizations prefer one over the other? What is the distinction between private cloud computing resources and public cloud services?

In this blog post, we’ll define and compare on premise vs cloud-based eDiscovery. We’ll also describe scenarios in which organizations should move their eDiscovery processes to the (hybrid) cloud and explain how to decide which method is appropriate. We’ll wrap up with a look at modern technology that can function on-premise or in the cloud, helping you seamlessly manage eDiscovery no matter which route you take.


What is on premise eDiscovery?

What is cloud-based eDiscovery?

On premise vs. cloud eDiscovery software

How to choose between cloud vs on premise software

When should your organization transition to cloud computing services?

Modern technology can meet your eDiscovery needs on premise or in the cloud

What is on premise eDiscovery?

On premise eDiscovery is the process of preserving and managing electronically stored information (ESI) for litigation using software that is installed on servers at an organization’s physical address.

To set up an on premise eDiscovery system, an organization must invest in eDiscovery software as well as any hardware needed to run it, including computers, servers, and hard drives. The organization must also provide infrastructure to support that hardware, such as heating, cooling, and power systems. The organization’s IT department is typically responsible for maintaining all of this equipment, from monitoring security to running updates.

On premise eDiscovery predates the cloud and is the traditional method of managing ESI. However, on premise eDiscovery software can be expensive and time-consuming to set up, making it a longer-term commitment. It also isn’t very scalable, as the storage capacity, processing power, and speed it provides are limited by the organization’s hardware capacity. Plus, it takes up physical space and is harder to access for those who work remotely.

On the other hand, many organizations feel more comfortable with on-premise eDiscovery systems because those systems are within their physical control, giving the illusion of a higher level of security. This is not necessarily the case, as we’ll discuss below, although on-premise eDiscovery software certainly can provide a high level of security if maintained properly. On-premise eDiscovery software is also highly customizable.

Now, let’s consider cloud-based eDiscovery.

What is cloud-based eDiscovery?

Cloud-based eDiscovery is the process of preserving and locating ESI for litigation through eDiscovery software that exists in the cloud computing environment.

Cloud software can allow users to access an organization’s entire computer network remotely. It is usually subscription-based, and the cloud software service provider is responsible for system maintenance, security, and updates. Therefore, cloud providers don’t require up-front capital investments or ongoing upkeep.

Cloud-based eDiscovery software is generally less expensive than on premise software because it doesn’t require a one-time software purchase or associated equipment; instead, users simply pay to use the software as needed. Cloud infrastructure also takes less time to implement because it doesn’t require any physical setup.

Although eDiscovery cloud software is less customizable than on-premise systems, it is much more scalable and offers a higher baseline of security. Cloud software is also more compatible with remote work environments because it allows users to access the system from anywhere as long as they have an internet connection.  

Cloud service providers usually offer public and private cloud computing solutions. Choosing the right one for your business depends on your organization's needs. For instance, if an organization requires a high degree of flexibility and scalability and has limited concerns about data security or compliance, a public cloud solution may be more suitable. That said, if an organization needs greater control over data security and compliance or has specific customization requirements, a private cloud solution may be a better choice. In some cases (e.g. when an organization needs to handle large amounts of data), a hybrid cloud solution, which combines elements of both public clouds and private clouds, may be the best option.

Let’s turn to a direct comparison of cloud vs on premise eDiscovery platforms.  

On premise vs cloud eDiscovery software

There are advantages and disadvantages to both on-premise- and cloud-based eDiscovery approaches. Which factors are more important depends on an organization’s particular situation and needs, but they generally break down as follows:

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Given these pros and cons, how can you tell which approach is best for your organization?

How to choose between cloud vs on premise eDiscovery software

Different organizations have different needs when it comes to eDiscovery software. Here are some questions organizations should answer before deciding whether to use cloud vs on premise eDiscovery solutions or a hybrid of the two.

·       Does your organization store data that is subject to data privacy laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), or California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)?

·       Has your organization had issues providing adequate storage capacity, processing power, and/or speed for eDiscovery-related processes?

·       Is your organization’s eDiscovery software budget stretched thin?

·       Is any on premise software or equipment you have due for replacement or upgrades?

·       Does a substantial portion of your workforce work remotely?

If you answered yes to some or all of these questions, cloud-based eDiscovery is probably the best solution for your organization.

When should your organization transition to cloud computing services?

For most organizations, the question is probably not whether they should move their eDiscovery to the cloud systems, but when they should do so. Generally speaking, organizations should make the switch to public cloud services or private cloud services when they:

·       begin to store more highly regulated data and require a higher level of security to remain compliant with data privacy laws,

·       approach or exceed their maximum on premise storage capacity,

·       find that they cannot provide the level of processing power or speed they need,

·       need to decrease their eDiscovery software spending,

·       are due to update their eDiscovery software or purchase new equipment,

·       need to provide their employees with remote access to eDiscovery software, or

·       downsize their physical office space to support a more remote workforce.

If it still makes sense for your organization to use an on premise eDiscovery system, the best way to stay nimble is to ensure that your chosen system can operate either on premise or in the cloud. For organizations that have a mix of on-premises infrastructure and cloud-based resources, hybrid cloud solutions might be a good fit.

Modern technology can meet your eDiscovery needs on premise or in the cloud environment

Modern eDiscovery solutions like ZyLAB ONE can be installed on-premise or operate in the cloud, streamlining eDiscovery workflows wherever they occur.

ZyLAB ONE is an end-to-end eDiscovery platform that automates the legal hold process and allows users to view all of an organization’s data in one place. With ZyLAB ONE, organizations can collect, review, and analyze large volumes of data quickly and cost-effectively, facilitating collaboration both internally and externally.

ZyLAB ONE gives organizations the tools they need to save time and money and deliver results faster—regardless of whether they want to maintain an on-premise solution or operate in the cloud.

Want to know more about ZyLAB and ZyLAB ONE? Contact our team or schedule a demonstration today.