I work with many clients that implement cloud-based messaging and storage systems like Microsoft 365 (M365) and Google Workspace to manage their enterprise. I’m a proponent of moving enterprise systems to the cloud and generally encourage IT organizations to consider all manner of cloud solutions.

Legal hold and eDiscovery needs are often secondary (or tertiary or not even considered) in the decision to move messaging and storage to the cloud especially when an organization is not regularly dealing with eDiscovery or data subject access requests (DSAR).

Do these tools help enable an “End-to-End” eDiscovery workflow? My definition of an “End-to-End” eDiscovery solution starts with legal hold, data identification, data processing, data review, data search (basic and advanced), and data productions.

Based on that definition my answer is no specifically because data productions require additional tools to meet the typical production obligations.

Both M365 and Google Workspace have functionality to support legal hold, eDiscovery and data compliance at the tenant level. That equates to using the native index to search for responsive users and content which does not include non-indexable data.

eDiscovery in M365 and Google Workspace were built as data triage tools to reduce the amount of information going into the expensive review process. The functionality to support that triage process is powerful with both tools in the hands of a practitioner that understands the nuances of the data workflow in these technologies.

Producing data to requesting parties will require additional steps and/or technology depending on the requirements for the production. Production formats vary from case to case, but it is common to have a production specification for TIFF or PDF with native spreadsheet along with a load file. This is important especially with when markings (e.g. Bates stamp, etc.) or redactions need to be done as part of the production. Neither Google Workspace nor M365 currently offer the capability to provide this functionality so data needs to be exported to meet this requirement.

The Google Workspace eDiscovery module exports data to either PST file or MBOX format. If advanced searching & analytics, redaction, or tagging is required, the data needs to be imported into an eDiscovery review tool. The documentation also provides instructions for reviewing the native email data in an email client like Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird or in a text editor.

M365 Advanced eDiscovery can do advanced searching & analytics, redaction and tagging in the Advanced eDiscovery review module. The export from M365 Advanced eDiscovery is either PST file or MSG format with a basic load file to document what was exported. I prefer PST format as it creates a PST file for each custodian which helps manage the chain-of-custody downstream.

There are considerations when considering using M365 and Google Workspace as part of an eDiscovery workflow related to eventual production of data.

  • Use automation to minimize the risk of data loss from cloud systems to 3rd party applications
  • Ensure you build quality control into the workflow to make sure there is defensible documentation
  • Use caution when trying to build in-house solutions using open-source technology rather than using established eDiscovery technology or providers
  • Make sure your approach for review and exporting data is well documented in an eDiscovery Playbook

Using the eDiscovery capabilities within M365 and Google Workspace can be a powerful way to reduce data volumes. Keep in mind that these tools have limited functionality when it comes to production of data in an eDiscovery sense. Make sure to budget for handling productions as well as a documented workflow which will be an additional cost to the per-seat license model for these tools.

Do you think these enterprise tools need to add eDiscovery data production capabilities? How would you advise your clients or your organization on how to best meet the basic standards for forms of production coming out of these enterprise level tools?

Share your thoughts with me at Jason.Velasco[at]ediscoveryadvisory.com.