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    Content Assessment: A Magical Sleight of Hand? Merlin Search Technologies Announces Cloud Utility Pricing Program

    Information - 90%
    Insight - 92%
    Relevance - 93%
    Objectivity - 84%
    Authority - 85%



    A short percentage-based assessment of the qualitative benefit of the recent announcement by Merlin Search Technologies and its Cloud Pricing Program

    Editor’s Note: From time to time, ComplexDiscovery highlights publicly available or privately purchasable announcements, content updates, and research from cyber, data, and legal discovery providers, research organizations, and ComplexDiscovery community members. While ComplexDiscovery regularly highlights this information, it does not assume any responsibility for content assertions.

    To submit recommendations for consideration and inclusion in ComplexDiscovery’s cyber, data, and legal discovery-centric service, product, or research announcements, contact us today.

    Background Note: The newly launched Cloud Utility Pricing Program by Merlin Search Technologies Inc., a company named after the legendary wizard Merlin, may parallel the character’s life by providing a magical solution for cybersecurity, information governance, and eDiscovery professionals. This pricing model offers an economical and client-first approach to the eDiscovery process, putting the client in control of usage economics and allowing for automated site management during idle periods. According to the release, the program may save clients up to 80% on sites that do not need to be active 24/7, much like how Merlin’s magical abilities saved King Arthur’s kingdom from destruction.

    While the Cloud Utility Pricing Program is being championed as a new pricing model for investigation and discovery sites, it should be noted that this pricing structure and model flexibility has existed from leading cloud computing providers, including Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, for some time. Information on the cloud computing pricing models offered by Google, AWS, and Azure can be found on their respective websites:

    • Google Cloud Platform (GCP) offers a variety of pricing models, including pay-as-you-go and committed use discounts. You can learn more about GCP pricing and available discounts on their website:
    • Amazon Web Services (AWS) also offers a pay-as-you-go pricing model, as well as various other pricing options such as reserved instances and spot instances. You can find more information on AWS pricing and available discounts here:
    • Microsoft Azure offers several pricing options, including pay-as-you-go, reserved instances, and spot instances. You can learn more about Azure pricing and available discounts on their website:

    Additionally, all three of these cloud computing offerings, have green computing programs in place to promote sustainable and environmentally-friendly computing practices.

    These cloud computing offerings serve as the backbone for many eDiscovery provider offerings, including, according to the announcement, Merlin Search Technologies (AWS). As with any pricing model, it’s important to carefully review the pricing information and terms of service for each cloud provider and cloud-enabled offering to determine which model and pricing options are best for specific needs. 

    Press Announcement Extract (March 6, 2023)

    Merlin Search Technologies Releases the First Cloud Utility Pricing Program for eDiscovery Hosting

    Merlin launches the first-of-its-kind hourly pricing program and Green Computing Initiative for its AI-powered search, investigation and discovery platform.

    DENVER, CO, USA, March 6, 2023 / — EDRM Trusted Partner, Merlin Search Technologies Inc., a cloud technology company, developing AI-powered software for search, investigations, and discovery, today announced the launch of its “Cloud Utility Pricing Program.” The program charges clients a low hourly rate when their team is using the site and another, much lower rate, when the site is turned off. Clients can save as much as 80% on sites that don’t need to be active 24/7.

    “This is a first for investigation and discovery sites,” explained Merlin’s CEO, John Tredennick. “Since the dawn of the digital age, vendors have charged for hosting the way landlords charge for rent–by the month. Like a rental home, you pay for the full month even when you aren’t using the site.”

    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.”

    “Clients can also set a schedule for site operations,” added Kathy Hogy, Merlin’s VP of Operations. “You can schedule a site to shut down at the end of the day and turn back on in the morning when people arrive. That step alone could cut hosting costs by as much as half, even more if the site is also scheduled to shut down during weekends and holidays,” she explained. “Why pay for hosting costs during hours when you are not using the software? This also allows for automated site management during the months when the case is dormant.”

    “The most brilliant solutions are often the simplest. Merlin’s new cloud pricing model is elegant, logical, economical and really takes a client-first approach to this part of the e-discovery process. I’m thrilled to be utilizing it and offering a competitive option to my clients,” said Dara Tarkowski, Founder and Managing Partner of Actuate Law and Chief Innovation Strategist of Quointec, LLC

    Single-Tenant Cloud Architecture

    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,” 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.”

    Merlin’s approach is different from other discovery vendors, who typically place client data in a shared, multi-tenant environment. Aside from obvious security concerns over commingling data, it puts clients at risk for ransomware and other attacks which can compromise all client sites rather than the one attacked by the hacker. “We did not want to keep our clients’ eggs in one basket,” Tredennick continued. “If one site were compromised, we didn’t want to place other clients at risk,” he concluded.

    The Cloud Utility Pricing Model

    Along with increased security, Merlin’s single-tenant architecture sets the stage for a new way to charge for hosting, one that bills by the hour rather than the month. Clients are then able to turn the site off when it is not in use, and are charged a much lower rate for an inactive site.

    “We can host large sites for as little as $10 an hour, even when they’re active, and still be profitable,” explained Lew Visscher, Merlin’s CFO. “We pay for computing infrastructure on a utility basis with Amazon Web Services and can pass those savings on to our clients, making it a win-win situation for both sides.”

    Cloud Utility Pricing offers substantial savings because clients rarely use their sites for more than a fraction of a month. “There are 730 hours in a month,” explained Tredennick. “To reach 25% active use, the team would have to be online for eight hours a day, five days a week for all four weeks of the month.” In most cases, on average, site use is much less than that. “We estimate typical site use at about 5%, or about 40 hours in a month,” Tredennick added. That provided the impetus for cloud hourly pricing. “If you are only using the site for a few hours a month, why pay for the full month?”

    Merlin’s VP of Operations, Kathy Hogy, spent the last sixteen years of her career running legal operations for a large public company. “Public companies often have dozens of inactive matters, sitting online with discovery vendors,” she explained. “They are forced to keep them online because they might be needed depending on developments in a legal or investigatory matter,” she added. “Cloud Utility Pricing allows companies to save on hosting costs but keep sites available for use the minute they are needed.”

    “In essence, Cloud Utility Pricing puts the client back in control,” Tredennick noted. “Users with appropriate permissions can turn off a site in minutes with a simple click of the red “Off Button.” The site quickly shuts down, notifying other users and making sure that currently-running jobs continue until completed,” he added.

    The same process works for Merlin’s scheduling utility. Just set the dial and the site will shut down and come back according to your timetable. Should a user need access to the site during off hours, just click the green “On button” to restore the site. It only takes a few minutes to reactivate the servers and you are off to the races.

    Cloud Hourly Pricing

    Merlin offers two models for Cloud Utility Pricing. The first is “Cloud Hourly,” which charges clients by the hour for time spent on the site. “Our prices are competitive with market rates, which are typically based on the number of gigabytes stored on the site,” Hogy explained. “We simply carved those prices into an hourly rate to set active pricing. For offline hours, we just reduced the rate by 80%, which gives you an idea of how much you can save when the site is inactive,” she continued.

    You can easily see the savings that can result for sites that do not have to be online for the entire month. As site use decreases, the effective (blended) per gigabyte price clients pay under Cloud Utility Pricing drops accordingly.

    Cloud Monthly Pricing

    A second option is the more traditional “Cloud Monthly” pricing plan. In this case, “clients can opt for a fixed monthly subscription price with a 30% discount on per gigabyte hosting fees compared to typical retail pricing,” Visscher explained. “We simply ask clients to run our “Cloud Energy Savers” to turn off the sites automatically when they have been inactive for an extended period. While this program doesn’t normally achieve the same savings as Cloud Hourly, it does provide a level of certainty in monthly fees that some clients prefer,” he added.

    “We are witnessing the dawn of a new era for ediscovery applications. For the first time, clients can use the cloud the way it was meant to be used and realize cost savings through Cloud Utility Pricing,” said David Greetham, Founder of PC Forensics and former head of Ricoh’s E-Discovery Business Unit.

    The First Green Computing Initiative

    Merlin’s Cloud Utility Pricing model constitutes another first–the first Green Computing Initiative for investigations and ediscovery. 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.

    Merlin will be releasing its new, first-of-its-kind “Cloud Energy Saver Utility.” The utility monitors each site, watching for prolonged inactivity. When the utility determines that a site has not been active for a set amount of time, it will turn the site off, saving energy and reducing hosting costs. “This won’t keep users from accessing the site when they need it,” Hogy explained. “We are just reducing energy consumption when they aren’t using the site.”

    “We are proud to play a small part in combating climate change,” Tredennick stated. “The world is consuming more electricity and other forms of energy than ever before. Just as buildings and hotels strive to become greener by monitoring energy costs and automatically shutting off lights, we can contribute by shutting off computing resources when the site is not in use,” he added.

    “Put another way, we’re using the cloud the way it was meant to be used,” Tredennick concluded. “And saving money for clients in the bargain.”

    About Merlin Search Technologies

    Merlin is a cloud technology company, developing AI-powered software for search, investigations, discovery, and compliance. Our flagship product, Sherlock Integrated Search, is the first Search 2.0 platform, and the first to offer keyword and algorithmic search in a user-friendly, integrated system. It provides a faster, easier, and more effective way to find relevant documents for investigations, discovery, and legal compliance.

    About EDRM

    Empowering the global leaders of e-discovery, the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM) creates practical resources to improve e-discovery, privacy, security and information governance. Since 2005, EDRM has delivered leadership, standards, tools, guides and test datasets to improve best practices throughout the world. EDRM has an international presence in 145 countries, spanning 6 continents and growing and an innovative support infrastructure for individuals, law firms, corporations and government organizations seeking to improve the practice and provision of data and legal discovery. Learn more about the EDRM today at

    Read the original announcement.

    Additional Reading

    Source: ComplexDiscovery


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