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Once electronic records became admissible in court, the quest to gather, manage and audit those records became one of the most important elements of a corporation’s legal staff. Add to that a judicial system that has become more tech-savvy, and the excuse that the records “were lost” just doesn’t fly any longer. Those issues have driven impressive growth in the data archiving and storage market, which in turn has created a new but related problem—retrieving relevant data.

That’s where e-discovery comes into play. Before e-discovery tools became available, those searching for data relevant to a case had to manually search through data stores to build a silo of pertinent information. One worry was that some critical element would be missed, while another worry was that information not relevant to the case would be mixed in. Auditors and researchers found themselves turning to more and more indexing tools to help manage the data, yet the very nature of each case requirement would render some of those indexes useless.

For example, if a researcher needed to locate all correspondence with an individual named “Smith,” an index could be built around the name “Smith,” but if the requirements changed to include an address instead of a name, a new index would need to be created, leaving the original index for “Smith” useless. What’s more, the amount of time and effort expended organizing the data can quickly add up, creating excessive costs and possibly creating missed deadlines.

Enter e-discovery, a technology poised to make the retrieval of information simpler and more concise. Modern e-discovery tools also allow information to be made portable, searchable and instantly retrievable. The portability is critical for legal professionals who need to search through massive amounts of data, in real time, while in a court room or during a legal proceeding.

The need to solve those problems and address those requirements gave birth to Mountain View, Calif.-based Clearwell, an innovator in e-discovery technology. Clearwell is currently engaging the channel and is offering its appliance-based solution to corporations in need of solving problems associated with locating e-mails, documents and other data elements for case work.

Dubbed the eDiscovery Platform, Clearwell’s product is basically an appliance that has the ability to “crawl” through the enterprise and index all e-mail, documents and so on. The process works using active directory (if configured) and by scanning all accessible documents, e-mails and data files, including associated metadata. The scan results in a “picture” of the data on the network, which can be used to identify who knew what when, and who contacted who about it. E-mail attachments are also scanned and all messages are added to a historical list of correspondence—basically a date-sorted, threaded conversation report. An important element of the product (especially when dealing with compliance issues) is the ability to track what has left or arrived on the network via e-mail and who sent and received documents.

Clearwell’s product can be configured to update in real time or be set up to scan the enterprise during off-hours, which can significantly reduce network traffic and operating overhead. While gathering and indexing all of the data is an important capability, the amount of data collected can quickly overwhelm the most seasoned of auditors. Here, Clearwell offers an advanced capability that allows data to be filtered by multiple criteria sets. That helps to bring the e-discovery process into a more manageable state, where pertinent data can be located quickly, while associated data that has no bearing on the case at hand can be eliminated.

The process, known as “intelligent culling,”  has been greatly enhanced within the latest version of  Clearwell’s eDiscovery Platform. Culling can now eliminate as much as 80 percent of unneeded data, which offers a significant time savings to those reviewing the data. An important part of culling is de-duplication, which removes duplicate data sets; in most instances, a significant amount of e-mails, documents and other files are duplicated throughout the enterprise. De-duplication proves to be a powerful tool for saving time during an investigation.

Management is also a key part of e-discovery, and here Clearwell offers a comprehensive case manager, which can manage multiple cases simultaneously, allowing administrators to handle multiple appliances from a single console.

Simply put, volumes could be written about Clearwell’s eDiscovery Platform and how the technology can be applied in the enterprise. Attesting to that are several whitepapers and case studies available on Clearwell’s Web site that are worth reading. Currently the product is priced based upon the amount of data evaluated, starting at $65,000 for 100GB. Prices increase with more data, but the company does offer discounts and other incentives for larger data stores. Solution providers can enjoy several benefits from their involvement with Clearwell. Profits can come from the sale of the product, installation services, training and even analysis chores.