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eDiscovery VS Digital Forensics: Differences Explained

In today’s modern age, most of the crucial paperwork and documentation are stored in digital formats. Thus, when these documents are required for a specific legal action, many companies and businesses turn to various solutions to review the stored information. That’s why this article will focus on explaining the differences between eDiscovery Vs Digital Forensics and what these two practices consist of since many people tend to mix these two.

Knowing how to differentiate and combine both of them is a sure way to make the customer’s money worthwhile.

eDiscovery VS Digital Forensics: Differences Explained

eDiscovery vs Digital Forensics

To achieve a suitable comparison of eDiscovery and Digital Forensics, it’s important to understand what these processes consist of. To get a better overview, one must discover what the primary use and focus of each technique is.

That being said, here are the uses, similarities, and differences between eDiscovery and Digital Forensics.

eDiscovery vs Digital Forensics

The use of eDiscovery

First off, eDiscovery stands for electronic discovery and is used as a digital investigation during legal processes. In most cases, the eDiscovery software is used for finding and delivering electronically stored information used for litigation, government investigations, and criminal proceedings. The type of electronically stored information (ESI) it deals with is usually the following:

  • Online documents
  • Emails
  • Instant messages
  • Social media profiles
  • Website content
  • Digital images
  • Audio files and voicemails
  • Video

The eDiscovery process deals with a large volume of stored electronic data. Additionally, each file has metadata, such as file properties and time-date stamps, which ensures the data hasn’t been tampered with.

Even though it may sound simple, nine crucial steps are set in place during the process:

  1. Information governance
  2. Identification
  3. Preservation
  4. Collection
  5. Processing
  6. Reviewing
  7. Analyzing
  8. Production
  9. Presentation

A critical part of the process is placing the data under legal hold. This means that they’re stored in a secure way with limited access. Doing so ensures the evidence can’t be manipulated, deleted, or destroyed.

The Use of Digital Forensics

Unlike eDiscovery, this technique is part of the forensics science branch. It’s used as a tool for establishing facts during criminal cases with the use of ESIs.

Furthermore, it usually involves gathering, identifying, processing, and analyzing the electronically stored data. This can include mobile phones, computers, electronic door locks, vehicle navigation systems, and other types of smart appliances. With the help of modern technology and software, it can be used to determine a suspect, identify a document, and even confirm an alibi.

The five crucial steps that have to be followed in Digital Forensics are the following:

  1. Identification
  2. Preservation
  3. Analysis
  4. Documentation
  5. Presentation

Even though the steps may sound similar to the eDiscovery process, Digital Forensics is thought to be more complex since it deals with the interpretation of timelines and hypotheses. Thus, there are several different branches it consists of. The most important ones include the following:

  • Computer forensics
  • Mobile device forensics
  • Network forensics
  • Forensic data analysis
  • Digital image forensics
  • Database forensics
  • IoT Forensics

What is digital evidence in computer forensics

One of the most common branches used in Digital Forensics is computer forensics. When presented in a court of law, digital evidence holds the same significance as any other type of traditional evidence.

Computer forensics mostly includes information and data that’s been stored in electronic devices and provides value to an ongoing investigation. Based on the memory storage devices the evidence has been stored on, there are two types of digital evidence known as persistent and volatile.

Since the first is stored on a non-volatile memory storage device, it stays preserved even when the computer is turned off. Thus, it’s most commonly found in hard drives, HDDs, SSDs, CDs, and pen drives. The second type of digital evidence is stored on volatile memory storage devices, such as RAM, memory, cache, and registers.

One of the most common issues with this type of evidence is its susceptibility to tampering. That’s why the main focus of the laws regarding this subject is to define its integrity and authenticity. Furthermore, the data must match the original source and not be modified while acquiring it to ensure it hasn’t been tampered with.

Similarities Between Digital Forensics and eDiscovery

Now that Digital Forensics and eDiscovery have been separately reviewed, the similarities are quite obvious. Both practices focus on gathering, processing, preserving, and analyzing digital data. Once the needed information has been acquired and processed, it’s presented during a legal case as evidence.

In both cases, various automated tools are used to aid in the duration and efficiency of the process. Furthermore, the high volume of information has to be thoroughly reviewed, which makes the whole ordeal more complex and time-consuming.

Lastly, the presented data has to hold relevance to the case. After gathering it from trustworthy sources, its integrity and authenticity have to be ensured through user reviews.

Differences between eDiscovery and Digital Forensics

After taking a look through the similarities between the processes, let’s elaborate on the differences between eDiscovery and Digital Forensics. The main focus points for an easy differentiation should be the following:

  • Data collection process
  • Data analysis process
  • Required standards
  • Common tools

Data collection process

The first important factor that differentiates eDiscovery and Digital Forensics is the data collection process. Even though the main objective of both these practices is collecting relevant case information, the way they do it slightly differs.

While eDiscovery gathers and interprets data from various digital devices, it doesn’t include files that have been hidden, deleted, or tampered with. Even though the investigators have to be careful during the process, it isn’t as strict as with Digital Forensics. Furthermore, when presented in a court of law, the investigator can only be called in to explain the way they’ve gathered the information.

On the other hand, the Digital Forensics process also includes gathering and interpreting data from deleted files or ones that have been tempered. The investigators are technically trained to deal with uncovering ESI by using tools, software, and techniques to gather the required data. Since the law requires this evidence to have integrity and authenticity, the process is held to the highest standards and with utmost detail.

Data analysis process

The second factor that differentiates eDiscovery and Digital Forensics is the data analysis process. After the needed information has been acquired, it has to go through the process of reviews and separation.

While eDiscovery focuses more on analysis and identification aspects, Digital Forensics is based on constructing timelines and hypotheses. Moreover, eDiscovery is only used to deliver the gathered data to the designated contact without clarifying the user’s intent. Since it’s also not required to give legal counsel, it’s up to the client’s legal team to further review and interpret the information.

On the other hand, the Digital Forensics team works alongside the legal personnel to collect and review the evidence needed for the assigned case. Because they have to work with encrypted data, the investigators are also required to determine the user’s intent and use keywords to cross-reference them in the data pool.

Required standards

Even though eDiscovery and Digital Forensics require undivided attention and focus, their required standards differ from each other. As already mentioned, the Digital Forensics process is held to a higher standard than the one for eDiscovery. Since the matter deals and requires strict control and limitations, it falls under the

eDiscovery VS Digital Forensics: Differences Explained

Common tools

The last factor that indicates the differences between eDiscovery and Digital Forensics is the common tools used during the process. While the former usually relies on software for gathering and processing data, the latter uses a combination of both hardware and software. Furthermore, Digital Forensics can also incorporate imaging and analysis tools, as well as specialized techniques like network forensics and memory analysis.

That being said, here are the most common tools used for eDiscovery:

  • AI software
  • Text analytics
  • Email archiving
  • Data processing and hosting
  • Collection and preservation tools

On the other hand, Digital Forensics usually relies on the following tools:

  • Forensic imaging and duplication
  • File analysis
  • File carving
  • Hash comparison
  • Cloud forensics
  • Network forensics
  • Memory analysis


After reviewing the differences and similarities between eDiscovery vs Digital Forensics, it’s easy to determine which practice is suitable for which cases. Even though the processes may sound similar, the first usually deals with litigation and less complicated cases, while the latter focuses more on criminal investigations. Furthermore, the tools, required standards, and data collection and analysis processes also differ.

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