Scaling legal data management securely

The client

iSight creates data management systems that help large enterprises manage their legal caseload. Based in Ottawa, Canada, iSight’s client portfolio includes the multinational companies HP, BCD and Corning.

The brief

iSight recently experienced a massive increase in demand for its services. Its expanded portfolio was putting pressure on its existing platform, which wasn’t able to perform as effectively as it did in the past. iSight needed to scale up to a new system to meet the expectations of its customer base. The new system needed tight access controls to protect sensitive client data, and it needed to deliver powerful performance.

The design principles

Performance: The platform needed to support a high volume of concurrent users and be responsive to their needs.

Security: The platform needed to support the implementation of tight access controls at a granular level.

Rapid customer on-boarding: nearForm aimed to reduce timelines to client launch by simplifying customer configuration.

“One team” approach: The teams on both the client side and the nearForm side behaved as if they were part of a single company.

The challenge

iSight’s existing platform was a 15-year-old legacy platform based on Domino Lotus Notes. It wasn’t powerful enough to handle the company’s extra customer traffic. The iSight team is globally distributed, covering Canada, Ireland and South Africa, so coordinating this team was a challenge for nearForm. Also, the ability to combine tight access controls with powerful performance at scale was a mission critical requirement for the client.

The solution

nearForm developed a new system in parallel with a new migration path that facilitated the migration of data from the old system to the new one. nearForm architected the system as a reusable core framework. Under the new system, client projects are implemented as separate instances. Each instance is developed so it can work independently. nearForm used semantic versioning to ensure that it could continue to be developed and deployed according to its own pipelines. As regards security, to meet the client’s security needs, nearForm designed a flexible and powerful data-level access control mechanism. This gives the system the capability to evaluate permissions for individual records and filter the results before they are returned to the developer.

The result

Once the new system became feature-complete, nearForm was able to roll it out in full for iSight’s new and existing clients. New clients were able to enjoy the full benefits of the system. nearForm implemented staged migration for existing clients, to ensure a seamless transition to the new system. Clients were able to build access controls for their own specific projects in a reusable and testable way. nearForm removed the slow code paths for access controls in the previous system. As a result, clients benefited from greatly improved performance.

nearForm was able to coordinate the teams by scaling the project horizontally with small, tightly constructed client teams of three or four people each. The use of Slack, GitHub and daily standup meetings ensured smooth communication between team members. Each team was able to deliver on its goals without impacting on developers from other teams.

The bottom line

The new iSight Node.js platform is now live and delivering the client’s goals of improved performance and water-tight security.

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