For more information about the issues of going paperless, using cloud technology, SaaS, and virtual law offices, take a look at Nicole Black’s “Cloud Computing for Lawyers” from the ABA (Amazon link). Psst: one of my articles is in it, so… SQUEE! However, I’m not getting paid. So you can buy it without worrying that you are enriching me in the process.
My law office is located in Colorado Springs Colorado – the location of the 2012 Waldo Canyon fire. On June 26, 2012, the fire broke over the ridge and started to come down the mountain quickly rushing into Colorado Springs. Foothill neighborhoods burst into flames. And no one knew how far the fire would go. Would the fire rush through all of Colorado Springs?
We quickly packed “go bags” with three days of clothes along with water, food and supplies, in case we had to evacuate.
But what about the office? We are paperless, so everything is digital. A couple of hard drives and we have everything. Smart, right? Well, there’s nothing like a disaster to put your finest plans to the test. The local backups are all on the full-size hard drives. They require their own power supply. This means a separate cable, power-brick, and of course, power. Three full-size drives and cables (one for the server, one for the laptops, and one for the Time Machine). Once you add in padding, you are looking at a carry-on sized bag. You think you have room for everything, until you actually start loading the car. You quickly find yourself running out of space. The trunk sags, and you need to make some hard choices about what you’re going to bring and what you will leave behind. Survival gear takes the priority: food, clothes, water, sleeping bags, medicine. However, with your “digital” office, you still have your laptops, and backups requiring the same space as a gym bag. It’s not big, but what do you leave behind so you can bring this?
In case you are wondering, I do use cloud backups. However, in a disaster, I am not counting on good conductivity. If I have to leave, I have no idea when I will be coming back, or even if I will be back. I need to be able to keep the office running and plan for contingencies, in case something happens during the evacuation. I need my first data location (on the laptop), and a backup.
Fortunately, we did not have to evacuate that night and I won an extra day. The next morning, I went out and bought two 1 terabyte bus powered hard drives, wiped them, reformatted for the Mac, and did a full image.
Two drives. Now I’m down to backing up the office onto something smaller than two paperback books. No long cables. No separate power supplies. Just a short USB cable. I slipped them into the pockets of my go bag.
Now, it is Friday, June 29, 2012. Three days since the fire came down the mountain. The weather has been favorable. The winds are blowing fire back into hills. There has been no growth in the fire and the firefighters are starting to gain containment. However, the fire still isn’t out. So, we stay ready. The car remains packed. I keep backing up: local, off-site, in the cloud, and onto the USB bus drives that come with me.
Remember, good backup strategy is about layers. You may have things backed up. However, if you have to leave in a hurry, give some consideration to how much space and weight those backups take compared to everything else you will need to take for yourself and your family. Add some bus powered drives – your business may depend on it someday.
It’s a new year and it is time to make good on that resolution to strengthen your law firm’s backup strategy (or to get one started)!
How to get your back-up plan in order, in case of a hard drive failure, theft or fire, is one of the most important things a solo attorney and small law firm can do — especially once you go paperless. Then it is all just bits. And you do not want them to go away. Fortunately, it is much easier to copy bits than it is paper documents, allowing you to have multiple up to date and versioned copies in multiple locations.
Goals of a successful backup strategy:
Automatic. You already know that if something is a hassle, it is not going to get done. You want something that works in the background whether you remember to use it or not.
Multiple locations. One of the worst backup strategies is to have your backup sitting next to your computer. You want to make sure you have offsite back-up. And having a backup in a completely different regions is even better.
Multiple copies. One backup is good, but several are better. You never know when a perfect storm will hit and take out your one backup.or
Multiple services. If something happens with your backup provider, even a temporary problem with connectivity, you could be left out in the cold. It is a good idea to put your eggs in several different baskets just in case.
Great, you say. You could read pabulum like this on any number of law blogs. So let me give you a quick and dirty guide to backing up. Some of this is Mac specific, but I am including PC alternatives for the Morlocks among you ;)