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Relativity Backend for Beginners (Part 1): Hosting

Relativity Backend for Beginners (Part 1): Hosting

I'll start with the disclaimer that this is post is explaining a complicated concept in super simple terms.

Relativity's backend infrastructure is a behemoth to maintain and understand. Having a little bit of knowledge on how it works can be a huge help for Relativity Administrators and anyone using the platform. This is Part 1 in a series to help you understand the basics of how Relativity works behind the scenes, specifically related to "hosting". 

Terms to know:

  • Hosting = where the files/data actually "lives"
  • Servers = computer hardware programmed for a specific use case, i.e processing, storage, networks etc. 

Most of the data on your laptop, for example, sits on your laptop hard drive. So your laptop is essentially "hosting" or storing your files. If you use Microsoft OneDrive, then your files are hosted by Microsoft. Microsoft OneDrive uses "the cloud" to maintain a copy of your files, though you may have a local copy stored on your laptop as well (this is an option to turn off/on, i.e "available offline" copies). Every file, image, document that you access via the internet or network has to "live" aka be stored somewhere. For data stored "in the cloud", these files are just sitting on servers managed by the cloud service provider (think AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google). Data "not in the cloud" is still stored on someone's servers. The cloud is a commonly misused term, I grappled with finding a resource to easily explain "the cloud", but here is a snippet from Cloudflare:

"The cloud enables users to access the same files and applications from almost any device, because the computing and storage takes place on servers in a data center, instead of locally on the user device. This is why a user can log into their Instagram account on a new phone after their old phone breaks and still find their old account in place, with all their photos, videos, and conversation history. It works the same way with cloud email providers like Gmail or Microsoft Office 365, and with cloud storage providers like Dropbox or Google Drive."

Hosting has costs

Clients are typically charged "hosting" fees, which is typically a $ per GB fee for the Relativity data that is stored on the servers. This hosting fee typically applies to the natives, images, text files, etc that you see in Relativity. There is a charge for this because the data/files have to live somewhere. Think of it like paying rent. Your belongings need a home, and data needs a server "home". The home is computer hardware and the hardware needs electricity, cooling, security, backups, etc which is factored into the hosting costs (kind of like your rent). The more belongings you have, or the more data you have, the more space you need, thus increasing the costs.

On-premise or "On-prem" Relativity

If your firm has Relativity on-premise, then the Relativity data likely sits in servers in your firm's "server room". This means that your firm "hosts" Relativity and manages all/most of the Relativity infrastructure required to keep the Relativity "lights on". 


RelOne is Relativity's cloud infrastructure. This means that Relativity maintains all of the servers, databases, etc, required to keep the Relativity lights on. What makes it a true "cloud", is that it uses Microsoft Azure to leverage the virtualization of servers and computing power as needed to scale and thus improve Relativity performance. Essentially the server resources are "shared" which is one reason it is called a "cloud". When you have an on-premise version, you don't have the opportunity to easily just add more server resources when, for example, a huge imaging job is taking days to complete.

Service Providers hosting Relativity

In case you missed it, the terms "Vendor" and "Service Provider" are just two words meaning the same thing. People generally have a preference for one term over the other, with "Vendor" being on the way out. I use "Service Provider" because well Service Providers/Vendors prefer to be called "Service Providers", so I will honor that.

Service Providers may host your Relativity environment, but sometimes they are not a true "cloud". They are essentially managing the infrastructure and hosting the data similar to what you would do with an on-premise version of Relativity or what a cloud-provider would do, though sometimes they do not have the scaling benefits of the cloud. The vendor may actually leverage cloud technology, it just depends on how they set-up their infrastructure.

Keep watching for more posts where I try to simplify and explain the tech-heavy stuff in legal tech. If you have comments, feedback, or corrections, I would love to hear from you! Feel free to shoot me an email at

Peace, love, and eDiscovery