By Brian Schrader
As BIA celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, we’re looking back on the company’s history and how the industry has changed—and what a ride it has been.
The impetus behind BIA
The foundations of BIA were planted in the late 1990’s, when BIA’s founders were working in the areas of litigation, information technology and computer forensics. Drawing on our diverse backgrounds, we shared our experiences and eventually coalesced around a common belief: Discovery of data from computerized systems was unnecessarily complex, burdensome and costly, and somebody needed to fix it (the term eDiscovery hadn’t yet entered the popular lexicon).
So, in 2002, we formed BIA with the goal of fixing those problems. Our focus was clear: Leverage the newest, best technologies to create better, more efficient discovery tools and processes. We were so focused on creating solutions that, even before we settled a name for our new company, we had identified and named the first solution we’d create: DiscoveryBOT.
Along our journey in the years following, DiscoveryBOT evolved to become a core part of the now independent TotalDiscovery platform, and BIA grew to become a premier, end-to-end eDiscovery solutions provider.
Creating powerful eDiscovery solutions
One of life’s indisputable truisms, whether building a skyscraper or inventing new eDiscovery software and solutions, is that a quality foundation is the most important element. Thus, we knew we had to focus first on the foundation of any eDiscovery process: the defensible, reliable identification and collection of data. That’s where the entire process starts, and if not done properly, it can contaminate and destroy the reliability and defensibility of every step that follows.
Even today, more sanctions derive from the failure to properly and defensibly identify and collect data than from any other action. And while the industry only recently has focused more on the left side of the eDiscovery Reference Model (EDRM), we knew from our first steps that the best way to avoid sanctions or any other problems in the eDiscovery workflow was to ensure that the entire process was grounded in a solid foundation. If it was, then any mistakes along the way could always be resolved by going back to that solid foundation. In short, it would make any eDiscovery workflow all but bulletproof.
In the early days of eDiscovery, the prevailing data collection options were hard drive imaging, which involved costly, disruptive, usually onsite full-disc forensic imaging originally designed for law enforcement, or risky manual data copying using whatever tools or methods the employee or an IT resource had available (often resorting to meta-data annihilating drag-and-drop copying). It was a choice of extremes, with no reasonable alternative, but we were about to solve that.
Enter DiscoveryBOT, the first defensible, targeted and remote-capable data-gathering technology specifically designed for legal matters and internal investigations. With DiscoveryBOT, collections for the first time could be targeted at user data, eliminating the unbridled waste that came with traditional forensic imaging. Over the years, DiscoveryBOT would be used to collect untold petabytes of data from custodians and resources in more than 50 countries spread across six continents, saving incalculable hours and dollars along the way. And while DiscoveryBOT has matured over the years, its core functions are much the same today—showing how far ahead of its time it was then and is still today.
Once we had created a better way to identify and collect data, we needed a way to process and analyze it. For several months, we tried the eDiscovery data processing solutions available at the time, even becoming quasi designers and alpha testers for some. But those platforms were all built as bolt-on products by companies whose main products were designed to scan and copy paper documents. They were all trying to fit round pegs into square holes—and it didn’t work. Frustrated, we decided to build our own data processing software, which we released in 2004 as TotalDiscovery. While TotalDiscovery could ingest data from just about any source, it was designed from the outset to work especially well with DiscoveryBOT.
Over time, we combined the data collection capabilities of DiscoveryBOT with the data processing capabilities of TotalDiscovery, added legal hold, custodian questionnaires, culling, early case assessment (ECA) functionality and more to create a behind-the-firewall hardware and software solution we named Solis™ – a system designed to give corporations true control over their eDiscovery processes and a new peace of mind that the rampant risks and costs of the past could now be controlled.
Not long after we introduced Solis, the cloud was born, and we immediately saw the benefits of moving Solis to the cloud. A fully cloud-based solution would eliminate upfront capital expenditures and bring a level of capacity, scalability and worldwide footprint that only the cloud could. It would be the next evolution in eDiscovery.
We were embracing again the ideals on which BIA was founded—to leverage the newest and best technologies to create better, more efficient solutions. We reconfigured Solis for the cloud and re-introduced it, now rebranded as TotalDiscovery. For the first time, anyone could deploy, in mere minutes, a truly comprehensive eDiscovery solution, anywhere in the world, without having to deploy a single server or install a single software program.
Shortly after we released TotalDiscovery, an event happened that displayed the true power and utility of what we had created in a most remarkable way. A client called in a near panic, needing to expedite a data collection in connection with a large M&A second request. The resource had been accidentally overlooked, and the deadline was fast approaching. Not all that unusual of circumstances, sure, but then the other shoe dropped.
The data was sitting on a computer, which was sitting on an oil rig, which was located off the coast of Nigeria. The client was concerned that it could take days if not weeks to get someone in the country and ferried out to the rig. Once again, enter TotalDiscovery. Long story short, the rig had an internet connection, and within a few hours, the data was defensibly collected, processed and up in a review tool for the attorneys. With that experience, we came to truly realize the revolution that TotalDiscovery would bring to the industry.
We eventually spun off TotalDiscovery in 2015 and watched proudly as it took on a life of its own. It remains the only truly integrated online platform, designed and built from the ground up together by a single development team, to handle the entire left side of the eDiscovery workflow, including: legal holds, custodian questionnaires, budget and early data and case assessments, remote data collections, comprehensive processing, search, culling and much, much more.
Check out part two of this blog, which discusses BIA’s approach to eDiscovery, how the industry has changed in the past 15 years and more.