Processing Data for Electronic Discovery

It is 4 p.m. on Friday. The lead partner walks into her paralegal’s office and hands off a sizable project that needs to be completed by Monday; the paralegal’s weekend is ruined. Colleagues sitting nearby hear the predicament and jump to the rescue, teaming up to each take a portion of the work. After hours of toiling, the group puts the work together, organizes it, and quality checks the results. It’s 11 p.m. on Friday, and the project is done. Together, the group accomplished more as a team than one person alone could.

This analogy exemplifies what virtual machines do for providers utilizing them for eDiscovery processing, allowing processing to be completed substantially quicker by divvying up the necessary tasks to multiple processing units working together. The concept of virtualization has been known for years; however, it is now being recognized as one of the most significant advances in legal technology. Yet, even though this technology dramatically reduces processing time and costs, very few providers have made the infrastructure investments necessary to keep pace with technology, relying instead on costlier, out-dated technologies.Virtual machines are servers tied to individual microprocessor cores, working in tandem to expedite a task by spreading processing across each unit. Thus, a quad-core processor is capable of running up to four processing servers in tandem to complete a unified task.

Virtual machines can be broken down into two general concepts: system virtual machines and process virtual machines, each having significance for the future of legal technology. In this article, we will focus on process virtual machines, not to diminish the importance of system virtualization.

Process virtual machines run as a distinct PC inside an operating system and support any process as defined by the user. The PC itself is created when the process is started and shuts down upon completion. This is the equivalent of a computer telling itself to run a specialized program and then exiting that process when the task is completed, only to start it again when it encounters the right environment. The distinction here is that, as opposed to running a specialized program, it is running a specialized computer.

Process virtual machines have significant bearing on the expedition of processing data for eDiscovery purposes in that these units can create efficiencies within workflows and production and take the manual burden off individuals processing data. The master processing unit assigns processing tasks to individual processing units it commands and then collects and organizes the work product when completed. As additional resources are created upon the completion of tasks by individual units, work can then be reassigned accordingly by the master to ensure the highest project efficiency.

One of the great advantages of virtual systems is the extreme level of scalability they provide, allowing additional “boxes” to be added to a network as resources are needed. Each server can house up to eight separate processing virtual machines, essentially allowing the number of processing units to double in a matter of minutes.

Another advantage of processing through a virtually enabled system is that work is never halted when a system “snag” or bottleneck is met, such as the occurrence of a password protected file or unknown file format. In a virtual machine system, because work has been allotted to multiple units, the project never sits idle. Further, the master unit can transfer workflow from a hindered processing unit to another machine in realtime, ensuring continuous processing.

Most industry observers have touted virtualization as the next significant step within eDiscovery. Iris Data Services has spent considerable resources in providing its clients access to the most advanced virtual system in the industry. Additionally, Iris has developed Unity, a proprietary processing solution that takes full advantage of the technological breakthroughs in virtualization and is capable of processing any type of file. It is this commitment to providing the most advanced technologies, superior client service, and the industry’s highest level of quality that has made Iris the fastest growing eDiscovery and forensics company in the world.

Iris Data Services is a national litigation consulting firm specializing in computer forensics, eDiscovery, and online hosting/review for law firms and corporate counsel. The firm has U.S. offices in Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, New York, San Francisco, and Washington DC Iris also maintains offices in Australia and China. To find out more about Iris Data Services, visit

Marco S. Nasca, Esq., Iris Data Services

Marco S. Nasca Iris Data Services

About the author: Marco S. Nasca, Esq. is a licensed attorney in the state of Illinois and regional director of Iris Data Services, an international electronic discovery and forensics provider. Mr. Nasca advises law firms, corporate legal departments and their staff on legal technology issues regarding electronically stored information, as well as best practices on handling data for litigation. Mr. Nasca is a frequent speaker on litigation technology issues and has written and contributed to numerous articles on the subject. Mr. Nasca is a graduate of the DePaul University College of Law.

~ by CDLB on June 17, 2009.

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