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Microsoft Buys Equivio To Bolster Office 365 E-Discovery

Microsoft announced today that it bought Equivio, a maker of electronic document discovery software tools.

Israel-based Equivio makes e-discovery and information governance tools under its Zoom brand. The text-analysis tools are typically used to streamline the legal discovery process and ensure legal compliance for organizations with regard to the retention of documents. The acquisition of Equivio will be used by Microsoft to enhance its existing e-discovery capabilities available in some Office 365 subscription plans, according to Rajesh Jha, Microsoft corporate vice president for Outlook and Office 365.

"Office 365 includes robust eDiscovery and information governance capabilities today, and we'll use Equivio's machine learning technology to make these vital tools even more intelligent and easy to use in the months ahead," Jha explained, in Microsoft's announcement

Microsoft's e-discovery capabilities include an "in-place e-discovery" feature that delegates access to records as well as an "in-place hold" feature that prevents document deletions. The company also has those e-discovery capabilities in its latest Exchange, Lync and SharePoint servers, but it's not clear from Microsoft's announcement if Equivio's technologies will be used to enhance those products as well. Certain Office 365 Enterprise, Education and Government subscription plans currently have e-discover capabilities, as outlined in this Microsoft Wiki article, which was last revised in November.

Equivio has expertise in e-discovery solutions that use machine learning to refine document searches. The company calls this process "predictive coding," which is a way of combining human legal search expertise with the machine scoring of those searches. Predictive coding, also known as "computer-assisted reviewing," supposedly cuts down on the costs associated with lawyer reviews. The costs can range from $10,000 to $40,000 per gigabyte just in the review stage, according to a Microsoft partner blog post describing Microsoft's e-discovery solutions.

Predictive coding is also described as an improvement over traditional keyword searching to discover documents, which is currently a practice in Office 365 e-discovery searches. Technology-assisted reviews, as enabled via Equivio's and other software vendor products, are now court endorsed, at least in one case, according to an Equivio white paper (PDF) written by Chris Dale, a U.K. lawyer and writer for the The eDisclosure Information Project.

Equivio has government customers such as the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, as well as corporate customers such as Deloitte, KPMG and Nvidia, among many others. Equivio sees the Microsoft acquisition as a means of expanding its product reach.

"By joining Microsoft, we will now have the opportunity to help many more customers layer these technologies into their standard operational and business practices," Equivio stated on its Web site.

No info on the value of the deal was announced. However, a Seeking Alpha article stated back in October that it was thought to be worth "about $200 million."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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