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Office365 is Changing E-Discovery

Thursday, July 21, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jason Krause
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Microsoft email and Office files have been the majority of e-Discovery documents for almost 20 years.  Office 365 is now the fastest growing product in Microsoft's history, and stands poised to radically change e-Discovery workflow, especially on the left side of the EDRM.

Earlier this year, Office 365 expert John Collins from DTI reviewed the essential facts e-Discovery professionals should know about Office 365 in our weekly webinar. While discovery from Office 365 bears some obvious resemblance to discovery from Microsoft’s old desktop systems, there are some serious new wrinkles to be faced when trying to obtain records for litigation from the Microsoft cloud.

As Collins pointed out, there are powerful tools built into Office365, but with some serious limitations as well: 


The Office 365 environment also includes a wide range of Microsoft services, not just Outlook email and Office productivity applications. These include SharePoint and Skype, which are available for discovery through this platform. Collins noted that Microsoft offers different levels of e-discovery support, with its E5 service “as the Cadillac plan for Office 365.” Though Microsoft has a big push on right now to sell these licenses, he shared an important secret for e-discovery professionals. “You do not need to be on Office 365 or have an E5 license to leverage most of the eDiscovery tools,” he says.

E5 licenses are available at the highest Office 365 price point, which is the $35 per user monthly license seat. Collins described how to use lower-cost licenses to accomplish e-discovery tasks in the archived ACEDS webinar below.

In managing e-discovery through Office 365, it is important to recognize that not all Office 365 plans include e-discovery features. Most troublesome is the fact that a legal hold workflow is not part ANY of the Office365 e-discovery tools. This means that if you wish to track your legal hold notices and acknowledgements, that must be done as a separate process.

Also, the platform does not help identify, preserve, or collect ESI located outside of Office 365. And processing, review, and production functions are not part of any Office 365 e-discovery service. “It is incumbent of everyone in e-discovery to become familiar with Office 365,” he says. “The number of changes and the velocity of those changes is unbelievably fast. With Office 365, we’re talking about new functionality that affects e-discovery every 30 days.”

This is Big 

As a cloud-based service, e-discovery teams need to ensure that they can prevent emails and other content from disappearing into the cloud forever. There is a danger that content can be purged in the routine functioning of the system, unless e-discovery professionals know how to impose a litigation hold properly. “If I put a mailbox on hold, whether it’s all the content or certain content that matches search criteria,  it doesn’t matter what the user does in deleting, purging, or modifying content, because it creates a folder that captures everything a person may be deleting or purging,” Collins says.

With the growth of the cloud in general and Office 365 in particular, there are special new challenges. In particular, new productivity and collaboration features are rolled out constantly. This means new types of ESI are regularly introduced, while eDiscovery and information governance features lag behind. “Because we have such a wide range of services available, there is going to be a lot of new types of information that is discoverable here,” says Collins. Fortunately, there are resources and support available, as Collins described:

For more information about Office365 and e-discovery John Collins and other guests will give an in-depth overview on August 10. Please visit the Training page to register for the free, one-hour webinar, sponsored by DTI.  


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