eClaris Software - Launches Cloud Application, Avoids More Than $1 Million in IT Costs

Top Quote A professional services firm, eClaris Software specializes in eDiscovery consulting. It wanted to expand its offerings in the legal field to include software solutions, beginning with PHIGRID, a legal project management application that it intended to host for customers. End Quote
  • (1888PressRelease) August 13, 2012 - eClaris engaged Microsoft Partner Network member Hanu Software to build PHIGRID into a commercial application. Hanu suggested that eClaris migrate PHIGRID to Windows Azure to avoid purchasing and managing on-premises server and storage infrastructure, which had become a serious barrier to marketing the new product. This move avoided upfront IT expenses of more than US$1 million, reduced time to market by 25 percent, and improved customer service. For eClaris, embracing Microsoft cloud services was a key step in launching a new line of business to increase market share and differentiate its offerings in the legal field.

    Consultants at eClaris Software provide assistance to law firms, legal departments, and government agencies that need to collect, process, and review electronically stored information for legal purposes. The company also helps law firms and corporations adapt to the boom in social media and cloud computing that bring additional challenges to managing digital evidence. These projects can involve processing up to 60 terabytes of data. "We differentiate ourselves through our ability to rapidly process multiple terabytes of data for customers," says eClaris Software Founder and President, Jacques Nack Ngue. "We get the digital evidence that law firms and corporate legal counsel are looking for―whether it's stored in email archives, databases, hard drives, or mobile phones―and present it for review by legal teams."

    As the company's ability to process data increased, so did the complexity of its customer engagements, and it was becoming difficult to run multiple projects consecutively. eClaris evaluated off-the-shelf project management solutions, but they did not address the regulatory requirements around eDiscovery. So eClaris built a basic, proprietary solution to manage customer engagements, and to allocate resources and track costs for each project. It was then that Ngue saw an opportunity to develop the company's solution to become a commercially viable product.

    After comparing cloud services providers, eClaris chose Windows Azure, a Windows environment which provides on-demand compute, storage, and networking capabilities to host, scale, and manage web applications running in Microsoft data centers. "Unlike Windows Azure, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud required some form of server maintenance, and it didn't offer the same level of integration with on-premises solutions," says Ngue. He adds, "When we reached out for information, the Microsoft team showed more support and interest in helping us achieve our business goals. They reviewed our deployment scenarios and made sure that we would end up with a solution that supported our business model."

    eClaris chose Windows Azure because it offers highly secure, isolated hosted environments, and networking, connection, and identity management services that it saw as a competitive advantage for PHIGRID. "Windows Azure has features that would overcome resistance to cloud computing within the legal field," says Ngue. "Law firms don't want their data to mingle with other entities, and they prefer to integrate any new software with what they already have running behind the firewall. One of the direct benefits of hosting PHIGRID on Windows Azure is that we can offer dedicated virtual environments for each customer, along with the ability to run their own schema in their own customized database.

    Another feature, Windows Azure Connect, would satisfy law firms' preference for interoperable systems. Using Windows Azure Connect, eClaris can easily establish an IPsec connection between an instance of PHIGRID running in the cloud and any on-premises computer, or endpoint, at a law firm that runs the Windows operating system. eClaris can also use Windows Communication Foundation, a component of the .NET Framework, to create services in Windows Azure that customers can install on computers behind their firewall to facilitate communication with PHIGRID. Security concerns around application authentication can be addressed through Access Control Service, a component of Windows Azure, cloud-based infrastructure services for applications running in the cloud. Access Control Service could be configured to allow PHIGRID to accept logons using a law firm's Active Directory Domain Services, the directory service that is an integral feature of the Windows operating system. And to ensure performance and reliability, eClaris can optimize performance using Traffic Manager to route application requests to other less busy instances of the PHIGRID application.

    The decision to run PHIGRID on Windows Azure helped to move eClaris in the direction envisioned by Ngue, enabling the company to cost-effectively offer competitive software solutions that evolve out of the collective knowledge of its consultants. The move also helped eClaris to mitigate the risk of bringing a product to market by avoiding large upfront capital costs. The company is also reducing the sales cycle, improving customer service, and building its competitive advantage. "The scalability and flexibility of Windows Azure means we can increase our customer count with minimal impact on the cost of doing business: for us that equates to higher profit margins," says Ngue.

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