Lawyers Waste A Ton Of Money On Data Storage And Discovery, But Massive Cost-Saving Tech Is Here


Businessman adding money fuel to a large closed fireDiscovery charges clients by the month to keep the servers warmed up and guzzling power around the clock for the whole life of a matter whether lawyers are actively reviewing documents or not. But what if you could turn off the system when no one is scouring the data without losing any of the work? That’s a lot cheaper for everyone involved. And less taxing on the planet.

And it’s an option that the legal industry can finally take advantage of.

Merlin Search Technologies might just offer the fastest document search ever with its Sherlock tool, but there’s an argument that offering savings upwards of 80 percent is an even bigger contribution to the eDiscovery world.

Merlin is able to offer Cloud Utility Pricing because each Sherlock site runs in its own secure environment. “From the beginning, we decided to host each site separately, using a single-tenant architecture,” [Merlin CEO John] Tredennick explained. “It provides greater security for client data and allows us to host our sites anywhere, including in a client’s own cloud environment.”

It used to be about renting warehouses in Topeka. Then setting up server stacks in an equally forsaken place before migrating to rented space in the cloud, which is usually also a forsaken place but with better branding. But the technology behind data storage kept advancing while the price stubbornly held steady.

The tech is now here to cost-effectively offer single-tenant architecture, but no one was really doing it because old habits — and the software behind them — die hard. Multi-tenant architecture became the industry standard when shunting every client and matter into its own little world proved prohibitive. And in a multi-tenant world, a client who isn’t actively working still owes for the cost of the shared resources.

But as a young company, Merlin had the luxury of starting from scratch. Armed with the experience of legacy Catalyst folks and the understanding that technology has advanced considerably, they set out to design the service around a single-tenant strategy:

Merlin’s flagship product, Sherlock Integrated Search, allows clients to turn sites off with a click of a button. “We spent over a year developing code and serverless computing tools to bring a site offline automatically, creating server images to enable quick restoration,” explained Mahesh Muthu, Merlin’s VP of Software Development. “Clients can bring a site back online in minutes, about the time it takes to get a cup of coffee.”

Once you can marry a single-tenant architecture with speed that can bring the system back up on a dime, there’s an opportunity for a product that toggles on and off. Turn it off at night, turn it back on in the morning. Shut down on the weekends. Set it up to automatically shut off after a period of disuse. Whatever.

By turning off site computers, clients can save on energy use as well as hosting costs. In minutes, all of the computing resources, from front-end web servers, to the database, full-text engine and AI servers, are shut down, reducing energy consumption while the sites are offline.

And when it’s not sucking up electricity, it’s cheaper, and Merlin’s new pricing model passes those savings on.

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Merlin CFO Lew Visscher explained that the company can host large sites, “for as little as $10 an hour, even when they’re active, and still be profitable.” But with most attorneys only utilizing 5 percent of the hours in a month over the life of the matter, there’s no reason to be racking up those per GB/per hour costs.

These savings represent the new Cloud Hourly Pricing model. If clients aren’t ready for the full benefit of this system, the Cloud Monthly Pricing model offers a 30 percent saving over traditional hosting costs and uses the automatic energy saving utilities to shut down after prolonged disuse.

I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t take the hourly model, but if they want to learn more about it, Merlin has a webinar about how it works on Thursday at 1 Eastern — RSVP here.

There’s a lot of talk about the dangers of market consolidation, but sometimes it has its benefits. If Catalyst hadn’t gotten acquired, Tredennick wouldn’t be bringing his experience to Merlin’s fresh new start and sort of rebooting how the industry approaches this problem.

Sometimes the best solution really is to turn it off and turn it back on again.

HeadshotJoe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.

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