Overview of the Advanced eDiscovery solution in Microsoft 365

The Advanced eDiscovery solution in Microsoft 365 builds on the existing eDiscovery and analytics capabilities in Office 365. This new solution, called Advanced eDiscovery, provides an end-to-end workflow to preserve, collect, review, analyze, and export content that's responsive to your organization's internal and external investigations. It also lets legal teams manage the entire legal hold notification workflow to communicate with custodians involved in a case.

Note

Advanced eDiscovery requires an Office 365 or Microsoft 365 E5 Enterprise subscription. For more information about Advanced eDiscovery licensing, see Microsoft 365 licensing guidance for security & compliance.

Alignment with EDRM

The built-in workflow of Advanced eDiscovery aligns with the eDiscovery process outlined by the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM).

The Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM)

(Image source courtesy of edrm.net. The source image was made available under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.)

At a high level, here's how Advanced eDiscovery supports the EDRM workflow:

  • Identification. After you identify potential persons of interest in an investigation, you can add them as custodians (also called data custodians, because they may possess information that's relevant to the investigation) to an Advanced eDiscovery case. After you identify custodians and add them to a case, you can easily preserve, collect, review, and analyze the associated custodial data.

  • Preservation. To preserve and protect data that's relevant to an investigation, Advanced eDiscovery lets you place a legal hold on the data sources associated with the custodians in a case. You can also place non-custodial data on hold (usually shared group resources such as SharePoint sites or shared Teams channels). Advanced eDiscovery also has a built-in communications workflow so you can send legal hold notifications to custodians and track their acknowledgments.

  • Collection. After you have identified (and optionally preserved) the data sources relevant to the investigation, you can use the built-in search tool in Advanced eDiscovery to search and collect live data from the custodial data sources (and non-custodial data sources, if applicable) that may be relevant to the case.

  • Processing. After you've collected all data relevant to the case, the next step is to process it for further review and analysis. In Advanced eDiscovery, the in-place data you identified in the collection phase is copied to an Azure Storage location (called a review set), which provides you with a static view of the case data.

  • Review. After data has been added to a review set, you can view specific documents and run additional queries within the review set to reduce the data to the most relevant documents. You can also annotate and tag specific documents.

  • Analysis. Advanced eDiscovery provides a powerful set of integrated analytics tools that help you intelligently cull irrelevant data from the review set, which saves you legal review costs by efficiently reducing the volume of relevant data for production.

  • Production and Presentation. When you're ready, you can export documents from a review set for legal review. You can export documents in their EDRM-specified format so they can be imported into third-party review applications.

Advanced eDiscovery architecture

Here's an Advanced eDiscovery architecture diagram that shows the end-to-end workflow in a single-geo environment and a multi-geo environment. The end-to-end data flow is aligned with the EDRM.

Model poster: Advanced eDiscovery Architecture in Microsoft 365

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For more information about the end-to-end workflow in Advanced eDiscovery, see this Microsoft Mechanics video.

The sections that follow describe each step in the built-in workflow in Advanced eDiscovery. The following screenshot shows the Overview tab of a case named 2020.11.03 - Contoso v. Fabrikam.

Tabs in built-in Advanced eDiscovery workflow

Managing custodians and non-custodial data sources

Use the Data sources tab to add and manage the people that you've identified as persons of interest in the case and other data sources that may not be associated with a custodian. When you add custodians or non-custodial data sources, you can quickly perform actions like placing a legal hold on custodian and non-custodial data sources, communicating with custodians, and searching custodian and non-custodial data sources to collect content that's relevant to the case. As the case progresses, it's easy to add new custodians or non-custodial data sources or release them from the case. For more information, see Work with custodians in Advanced eDiscovery.

Use the Communications tab to manage the process of communicating with the custodians in the case. A legal hold notice instructs custodians to preserve any content that's relevant to the case. Legal teams must track the notices that have been received, read, and acknowledged by custodians. The communications workflow in Advanced eDiscovery allows you to create and send initial notifications, reminders, release notices, and escalations if custodians fail to acknowledge a hold notification. For more information, see Work with communications in Advanced eDiscovery.

Managing content preservation

When you add a custodian to a case, you can place a hold on custodial data. Use the Hold tab to manage the hold created when you add custodians and manage other legal holds associated with the case; for example, you can identify and place a hold on non-custodial data sources. You can also edit any hold in the case and make it a query-based hold to preserve only the content that matches the query. For example, you could add a date range to the hold so that only content created within a specific date ranged in preserved. You can also get statistics on content that's on hold, remove the hold after it's no longer relevant to the case, or delete it. For more information, see Manage holds in Advanced eDiscovery.

Indexing custodian data

When you add a custodian and the corresponding custodial data sources to a case, any partially indexed item from a custodian data source is reindexed by a process called Advanced indexing. This allows custodial content such as images, unsupported file types, and other potentially unindexed content to be fully searchable when you run searches to collect data for the case. Use the Processing tab to monitor the status of Advanced indexing and fix processing errors by using a process called error remediation. For more information, see Fix processing errors in Advanced eDiscovery.

Collecting case data

Use the Searches tab to create searches to search the in-place custodial and non-custodial data sources for content relevant to the case. You can create and run query-based searches (using keywords and conditions) to identify a set of email messages and documents relevant to the case and that you want to further review and analyze in subsequent steps in the eDiscovery workflow. You can create one or more searches associated with the case. You can also use the search tool to preview sample documents and view search statistics to help you refine and improve the search results. After you search and collect all the data relevant to the case, you can add the search results to a review set for further review, analysis, and culling. For more information, see Collect data for a case in Advanced eDiscovery.

Reviewing and analyzing case data

Use the Review sets tab to review and analyze the content you've collected from the live system and added to a review set. A review set is a static collection of that data (in other words, an offline copy of data) of custodial data (and, if applicable, non-custodial data) that you collected in the previous phase of the eDiscovery workflow. When you add search results to a review set, a process is triggered to extract files from containers, extract metadata, and extract text. When this process is complete, the system builds a new index of all the data collected from custodians and adds it to the review set. After the data is added to the review set, you can run more queries to narrow the case data, view data as text or in the native file format, and annotate, redact, and tag documents in the review set. You can also perform advanced analytics, such as identifying document duplication, email threading, and themes. After you've culled the data to only what is relevant to the case, you can either download documents directly or export them along with file metadata, annotations, and any tags. For more information, see:

Exporting data for review and presentation

After you export the data from a review set, use the Exports tab to manage an export job and download data from a review set. When you export a review set, the data is uploaded to a Microsoft-provided Azure Storage location (or an Azure Storage location managed by your organization). After it's uploaded to Azure, it's then and available to download to a local computer. You can obtain the storage access key necessary to download the exported data on the Exports tab. For more information, see Export case data in Advanced eDiscovery.

Managing jobs

Use the Jobs tab to monitor long-running processes for case-related tasks that you've initiated. Examples of jobs include ones related to reindexing, searching, and exporting case data. For example, if you create a search on the Searches tab that includes many data sources, the status of this search process will be displayed on the Jobs tab. For more information, see Manage jobs in Advanced eDiscovery.

Configuring case settings

Use the Settings tab to configure case-wide settings. This includes adding members to a case, closing or deleting a case, and configuring search and analytics settings.