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.
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 ;)
Lawyers are particularly concerned about using cloud based service to store information. Here are some of the issues attorneys face:
I am handing over sensitive client matters to a third-party! Note: this is despite the fact that lawyers already do this when they store client files in a rented office.
Where are the files stored? Are any files stored outside of the United States?
What are the security procedures at the cloud service provider?
Who can see my data?
Will the data be handed over to law enforcement and under what conditions (subpoena)?
Will I be notified if data is handed over?
The flaw (some say the fatal flaw) with using a cloud service like Dropbox is the service ultimately has access to your files and could theoretically view or reveal your data.
There have been a number of workarounds including putting your files into an encrypted container. I discussed the trade-off with this in “Is Cloud Storage Secure Enough for Lawyers.” The problem is that you lose the benefit of constant synchronization: instead of files constantly being backed up and synced, you have to sync a single LARGE file when all you want to do is shut down your system and go home.
The goal has been per file encryption and services like Spider Oak have stepped up to the plate to offer this. However, moving away from Dropbox, means moving away from a known service which is currently the market leader with cross-platform application on desktop (Windows, Apple/Mac, and Linux) and mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry) plus many applications support Dropbox right out of the box!
Plus, Dropbox just works! Sync is hard. Just ask anyone who has tried to keep contacts synchronized between various computers and online services: you get old information, conflicts, and duplicates. With Dropbox files sync accurately and quickly — even “files” like Circus Ponies Notebook which are actually folders work!
Now, I’m not saying other service do not work just as well. It is just that any contender needs to be considerably better to make me move.
Dropbox is an amazing tool and now that it has selective synchronization, you no longer have to have every folder synced across all of your systems. This is particularly useful if you find solid states hard drive sizes a bit cramped. Read the rest of this entry »
Here are the slides from “Practicing in the Cloud” presented at the Colorado Trial Lawyers convention and Colorado Bar Association Hanging Your Shingle CLE. This covers the best of cloud based solutions for attorneys!