Everything You Need to Know About Virtual Law Platforms
A virtual law platform – or a law firm in the cloud – can change the
way that firms go about providing excellent service to clients and keeping
costs down internally. Here are the answers to some typical questions law firms
have before making the change.
Migration time and effort: Not an issue
Ordinarily, migrating data from one technology to another takes a lot
of time and energy. But, you don’t have to worry when it comes to moving data
to the cloud.
Of course, the timeline depends on your data volume, but the process
itself is usually a quick one – and it doesn’t require constant input and
adjustment on your end.
Security: Data is locked up
Unless you work in a Fortune 100 law firm, it is unlikely your data
security is flawless. And even if you have managed to achieve a secure
environment, it probably takes a herculean effort with multiple IT consultants
and/or firms working constantly to make sure nothing and no one breach your
defenses. In other words, it’s a lot of work, and it costs a lot of money.
When you select a virtual law platform, such as Legal Workspace, you
benefit from the kind of security those elite law firms offer, all at a
fraction of the cost. Legal Workspace can offer high-level security at a
reduced cost because of the scalability of its security systems.
Need to be HIPAA-compliant? That would be a major headache if you
tried to do it yourself, but when you work with a company like Legal Workspace,
you only need to request that security feature.
IT costs: Reduced
You may be patching up an old server, trying to put off the giant
expense of a new one. Maybe you have a Microsoft Exchange 2010 server that’s
coming to the end of its support lifetime – and you know you need to either
invest in a new one or make a different choice.
Whatever your IT situation, your management team is likely a little
bit annoyed by the way that IT spending can conflict with – and usually exceed
– what’s in the budget. When you move your law firm to the cloud, suddenly IT
costs become a lot more predictable and a lot less expensive.
Instead of shelling out upwards of $15,000 for a new server (and all of the additional costs that accompany such a complex project), maybe it’s time to consider using a virtual law platform with stable monthly fees as IT costs.
Let’s say you have everything figured out already when it comes to
workflows, applications, and software you use to keep your law firm humming at
peak efficiency. If you do, that’s great: Legal Workspace, or the virtual law
platform of your choosing, can usually lift those working parts into the cloud.
What worked before, works after.
But, if you could use a hand with improving workflows and need help
finding solutions that work better, Legal Workspace’s team of experts can
listen, advise, and tailor an environment that makes your law firm click. What
didn’t work before, works after.
And that’s not all!
Basically everything stays the same or works better in the cloud.
Convert that server closet or room into something more useful and relax. Many
of the worries you experienced with on-site servers will no longer be an issue.
Migration? Not a huge time commitment. Security? Better than ever. IT costs? Stabilized and reduced. Workflows? Improved. A virtual law platform can make things easier, safer, and more efficient. Reach out today to learn more.
4 Reasons Why Cloud Services and Law Firms Belong Together
Cloud environments provide a lot of advantages
no matter what industry is served. But, law firms especially benefit from
specific features and services that cloud hosting can supply. These four big
reasons make it clear that law firms and cloud services belong together:
What would happen if your email host
experienced an outage? How much would that affect your ability to work with
clients? Beyond that, do you know for sure that your email encryption is strong
The cloud eliminates both of those worries in
one fell swoop: It makes email hosting reliable and secure. Attorneys and other
employees will be able to access email anytime away from the office, and it is
as safe and as dependable as it would be if they were sitting at their desks in
the middle of the business day.
Cloud hosting also means that your firm is not
storing files on any device, which is a key provision to the Health Care
Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). In fact, if your law firm services
clients that need HIPAA compliance, a cloud environment like Legal Workspace
can make that ordinarily cumbersome process easy.
Finally, you have no need to worry about
losing email data. Even if a natural disaster or a theft occurs at your law
firm’s physical space, your information is safe.
and virtual servers
All of the advantages of email hosting in the
cloud apply to file storage in the cloud. Nothing is hosted on your law firm’s
devices, so compliance with regulatory oversight is a snap. The storage is
reliable and secure.
Cloud providers use virtual servers. That
means law firm management can stop thinking about server maintenance, worrying
about technology upgrades, and stressing over potential down time. When you
take advantage of cloud services, you will always be using the latest and
It also means attorneys and employees have
access to the same files, software, and other data any time and anywhere. They
may be in court or mediation. They may be traveling or working odd hours. With
a cloud environment like Legal Workspace, attorneys can have the exact same
work experience in court that they would in their own offices, for example. It
saves time, increases productivity, and makes work more convenient.
You can’t predict the future. And, no matter
how well you prepare or work to mitigate risk, it is still possible that your
workspace will be struck by natural disaster or burglary. Maybe you’ve thought
of that and are already doing regular data back-ups…or maybe you’ve let that
fall by the wayside.
When you use a cloud environment, back-ups
happen automatically. Instead of natural disaster or theft causing business
interruption, you have zero downtime. Legal Workspace keeps two weeks’ worth of
back-ups, and they store data in two geographically diverse locations – so even
if something happens that affects one of those facilities, the other has you
routine office tasks
You can think of the cloud as your all-around
IT solution because most cloud services ensure that your office technology is
working, too. That means phones, networks, printers, and scanners stay up and
running, and if something goes south, you know who to call.
Law firms that use a cloud environment can
concentrate on what they do best: practicing law. When you make the decision to
go with the cloud, email services, file storage, security, reliable back-ups,
and a simplified office routine are all yours.
You already know the benefits of using a cloud-based work environment for your law firm. Increased flexibility, security, and functionality: All of that can be accomplished by switching to the cloud.
Legal Workspace, which supplies cloud-based work environments specifically for law firms, now provides two pricing packages to better serve clients’ needs. How do you know which one is right for you, in order to create your ideal law firm in the cloud?
Both packages provide the great hosting, service, and security you’ve come to expect from Legal Workspace. In both the Gold Package and the Platinum Package, you will get:
Legal Software Hosting
This includes virtual law firm cloud servers dedicated to your firm, along with the virtual workspace that allows attorneys and staff to access their desktops anytime, anywhere, with any device. Microsoft Office and Exchange email are included, as well as storage for your legal applications and software, files, and data.
If you’re not already working with Legal Workspace, you’ll get a custom cloud environment specifically tailored to your firm. Before it launches, Legal Workspace performs parallel testing to make sure everything goes off without a hitch. The whole transition can be a hands-off experience for you.
Dedicated Expert Support
If you’re worried about running into snags, you can let that go. Legal Workspace provides unlimited environment support including updates and maintenance. It guarantees 99.99% uptime.
Security and Compliance
Do you have a client with specific security needs, such as HIPAA? Legal Workspace is the leading cloud provider for security-focused law firms and its law firm cloud storage is unparalleled. With AmLaw 100 grade security, customizable data encryption options, two-factor authentication, state-of-the-art antispam and antivirus, and more, a law firm in the cloud can mean more security than your firm would ever have been able to cobble together onsite and on its own.
The additional benefit of the Platinum Package
The Platinum Package gives law firms added peace of mind in the form of additional dedicated expert support. Beyond the environment support, those law firms that opt for the Platinum Package also receive:
• local computer support • software and application support • local network equipment and internet support • support for printers and scanners
If you have an onsite IT person or already work with an IT provider that can take care of those issues for you as they come up, you can simply select the Gold Package. Legal Workspace will take care of your law firm’s cloud support, and your IT person can take care of the rest.
But, if you’re looking to make a change or you need that extra focused attention, Legal Workspace can provide it to you with the Platinum Package, which supplies unlimited cloud support as well as support for your local work stations.
A law firm in the cloud increases productivity, flexibility, and security, all while reducing costs. The choice is yours: Select the Gold or the Platinum Package to benefit from the services your law firm needs.
Do you know that October is cybersecurity awareness month? More importantly, do you know what you need to do in order to keep your data secure? Or, are you aware of what you need to do…except sometimes tasks (like regular back-ups) fall through the cracks?
Maybe your IT person or department is responsible for security, but you’re not really sure what that entails – which could mean that you’re not really sure if the efforts your law firm makes toward securing its data are effective.
It makes sense that managing partners of law firms would want to concentrate on the business of law rather than spend precious time attempting to grasp the intricacies of cybersecurity. But, managing partners also understand how important it is to secure their firms’ data.
So, how does a savvy law firm strike a balance: not wasting time (and money) on something better left to experts, but ensuring that its data is completely secure?
There is a way for law firms to benefit from military-grade cybersecurity without the hassles that accompany elite in-house security. No personnel management. No constant upgrades, patches, or maintenance. No unexpected expenses, such as the sky-high cost of replacing a server. No downtime. No cumbersome back-ups. Just peace of mind.
When a law firm opts to work with a cloud environment, such as Legal Workspace, security stops being an issue that anyone in the firm needs to consider.
No more worries, just security
Law firms can be lucrative targets because they store privileged information that hackers can use in unintended ways. If your law firm’s cybersecurity isn’t up to snuff, it could mean that you are at risk. Having holes in your cybersecurity could be considered the equivalent of leaving privileged information out in the open for anyone to take and use.
And, if a law firm’s technology isn’t up-to-date and fully operational, that means a different sort of problem. What would happen if your server failed? How much time – and how much data – would you lose?
When you work within a cloud environment specially designed for law firms, you don’t have to worry about any of those issues any longer. With geographically redundant data centers, such as those used by Legal Workspace, your data is safer in the cloud than it could ever be in an on-site server. Access to those data center servers is limited, and staff is always on-hand to monitor for and prevent problems – and to react should anything unexpected occur.
Advanced data encryption, firewalls with a sophisticated detection system, and automatic back-ups secure your data so well that passing compliance standards, such as HIPAA and PCI, is just a regular part of what Legal Workspace does.
What to do instead
If you make the switch to the cloud and your security worries disappear, your attorneys and employees can spend more time on revenue-generating activities. And, if you have an IT person on staff, he or she doesn’t need to spend the day running from place to place, troubleshooting and patching up problems. Instead, that person can concentrate on strategy: discovering and implementing new technology that will save your law firm time and money.
As for law firm management? Well, you can just sleep better at night, knowing that your data is secure, and your clients are happy.
Law firms and technology have made some giant leaps in the last decade or so. Now, there are applications made specifically for law firms that track time, facilitate billing, generate and manage documents, and even help you manage your practice.
We know that you want to take full advantage of the efficiencies and transparency that legal applications can provide to a law firm. That’s why, at Legal Workspace, we make it a priority to host and support the most popular and most effective legal apps on our cloud environment.
How it works
Because Legal Workspace was created specifically for law firms and their unique challenges, we understand that firms need certain legal applications to be available anytime and anywhere in order to be able to function at full capacity.
Working with Legal Workspace provides law firms with the opportunity to migrate their existing legal applications to the cloud – or to strategize and make new decisions about what technology they want and need to make work and life easier (and more accurate).
Legal Workspace’s engineers are certified in the top legal applications, so they can provide support if and when it’s needed. They can also consult with clients to identify which apps might work best in their particular situations.
And, Legal Workspace can even license certain legal apps, which simplifies billing.
What apps does Legal Workspace host?
Legal Workspace hosts a wide variety of legal applications. Law practice management software includes Amicus Attorney ®, Time Matter®, Needles®, Practice Master®, Thomson Reuters ProLaw®, Juris®, and LawBase®.
Legal document management software includes Worldox® and Microsoft SharePoint®.
Time and billing software includes PCLaw®, Timeslips®, Tabs3®, and Quickbooks®.
Legal document generation automation includes Hot Docs®, ProDoc®, and Amicus Attorney®.
You can find out more about how you can customize your Legal Workspace cloud environment with a variety of legal applications and software here.
And, what if you have your own proprietary software that you use for practice management, for example? That’s no problem. Legal Workspace can host the software law firms develop.
When you work with a cloud environment that hosts the legal applications you need, you are using technology to your advantage. And, you get so much more from using the cloud.
Your attorneys and staff can access the programs and data they need from any location at any time. Remote access isn’t the only benefit: You’ll save money on hardware – and its set-up and maintenance. Instead of laying down big money to get started, you’ll have one simple monthly bill.
Your data is continuously monitored and protected. Beyond that, working in the cloud means that recovery of data – if a disaster were to occur – would be that much simpler.
Working with a team like Legal Workspace’s enables you to get the most from your technology. The legal applications that it hosts can propel your law firm to new levels of efficiency and accuracy. With Legal Workspace’s engineers’ help, your law firm can take another giant leap by allowing technology to work for you – so you can concentrate on the business of law.
By now, you’ve heard all about the cloud, how it can keep your data secure, and how using a cloud environment is a more convenient way to work. You’re convinced that working in a cloud environment is the way to go. What’s the next step? How do you get the cloud and make it work for you? Will any cloud do?
As with any other technology, you must be selective. Choose the cloud environment that provides security and support.
Legal Workspace goes way beyond providing just cloud storage for lawyers. Its cloud environment was designed with the particular needs of the legal profession at its forefront. Because of that, Legal Workspace’s cloud environment – and its set-up and support team – provide special features that make it the best choice.
A dedicated team
When you work with Legal Workspace, you aren’t just buying space and an interface. You get to work with a dedicated team that is there to help you with your technology needs. This team is made up of people with legal industry experience.
That legal industry experience allows the team to immediately comprehend and meet your firm’s needs. The team takes an unbiased approach to hosting, and they understand a law firm’s daily workflow in addition to all of the facets of technology. For example, they can help you customize programs and applications for greater efficiency. Beyond that, if you ever need advice as you make technology decisions, the team can contribute CIO-level guidance.
And, certain aspects of tech maintenance become invisible. Just think: You will never need to worry about updating software again – because it will happen automatically.
A secure environment
You have your dedicated technology team to set up and maintain your own distinct cloud environment when you work with Legal Workspace. But that’s not all your team can do for you. You can consult with your team about security, too. Because Legal Workspace is designed specifically for use by those in the legal profession, it has developed and locked in place a multi-layer defense system to protect your – and your clients’ – data from exposure.
Legal Workspace uses two-factor authentication, advanced intrusion detection and prevention systems, state-of-the-art antivirus software, and anti-spam solutions as tools in its mission to keep your data safe. The security teams at Legal Workspace are always working to keep your data secure with proactive monitoring, redundancy, and airtight training and policies.
A compliant mindset
Legal Workspace takes security and compliance seriously. It knows how important compliance is to you and to your clients. That’s why on-staff security and compliance experts are easy to reach and at the ready to help you make compliance decisions and meet the demands of standards required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS).
And, data storage isn’t a mystery with Legal Workspace. Your data is stored in the United States – in Dallas, TX, and Denver, CO – and it will never leave those locations.
When you work with a cloud solution that understands the challenges the legal profession faces, you have the opportunity to take advantage of its expertise. You can work in a cloud environment designed especially for law firms, and you can work with teams with legal industry experience and technology expertise. That makes it so much easier to set up a cloud environment that does what you need it to do.
There are so many reasons for law firms to use the cloud, ranging from increased convenience to more robust security. Here are five unexpected benefits of cloud services for law firms:
1. Bump up holiday and summer billable hours
It’s summer time, and the living is easy—right? All of your clients are settled on a beach somewhere, and all of your attorneys are kicking back with their feet on their desks. Maybe in a parallel universe! In this world, hours need to be kept up during the summer and holidays. With Legal Workspace, remote computing for law firms allows just that: Attorneys can access data and the programs and applications they need whenever and wherever they need them.
2. Eliminate network downtime
Network downtime can be a scourge. It sidelines productivity, it causes headaches, and it costs money. When you transition to using a cloud environment, any fears you had about experiencing network outages and failures can disappear. Legal Workspace, for example, has redundancies in place to ensure that its servers are consistently up and available for customers using its cloud environment. No interruptions. No glitches. No downtime.
3. Automate data back-ups
Stuff happens. One attorney might inadvertently leave her laptop on a plane, another might find his smartphone went missing somewhere between the office and the commute home. And it’s not only lost or stolen devices that could cause problems: Security breaches also pose data loss risks to law firms reviewing and storing sensitive, privileged materials. Most people know that data back-ups are paramount to guard against data loss. Unfortunately, not many law firms perform regular back-ups as they should. When law firms use the cloud, data gets backed up routinely, thus eliminating worries about data loss.
4. Easy onboarding
Onboarding new employees can be a hassle. You may be introducing multiple unfamiliar applications, programs, and procedures to any new attorney or staff member. Working in a cloud environment such as Legal Workspace can ease that pain because the platform is standard across devices; there’s no need to re-invent the wheel every time someone logs in from a different device or location. Legal Workspace also provides an environment that’s intuitive to use, which reduces trial-and-error interactions while reducing law firm overhead expenses.
5. HIPAA compliance
Law firms and attorneys that work with Private Health Information (PHI) have an additional responsibility: complying with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Some cloud environments, such as Legal Workspace’s HIPAA Compliant Edition, offer enterprise-grade safeguards for data storage, which meet HIPAA compliance obligations. This type of solution removes the need for large law firms’ IT departments to cobble together a system for additional data protection. It also allows smaller law firms access to security that would otherwise be impossible for them to create and maintain.
When a law firm begins using a cloud environment like Legal Workspace, it instantly benefits from increased convenience, consistency, and security. The cloud can be an immediate painkiller for a lot of common law firm headaches.
In-House or in the Cloud: Choosing the Right IT for Your Law Firm
This article was written by Joe Kelly, CEO of Legal Workspace, and published in Colorado Lawyer.
Whether attorneys are hanging their shingles or working at large firms, information technology (IT) is probably not their highest priority. Most lawyers would rather focus on practicing law than worrying about technology. Nevertheless, IT plays a vital role in the business of law today.
Complicating matters is the growing necessity for practices to support mobile devices and a virtual workforce. At the same time, firms must also ensure security and compliance with professional obligations and regulations, such as the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). When transitioning to new IT systems, attorneys and staff often want to continue using their favorite software programs, which may come from different providers and may not be legal-specific.
Those at larger law firms can usually let the IT department worry about such logistics. However, attorneys at small or mid-sized firms do not have the luxury of a large IT staff—if they have any IT staff at all. Consequently, lawyers are left to figure these things out, even if the sheer number of issues to consider when setting up or reimagining IT seems overwhelming.
It is helpful for small to mid-sized firms to think in terms of three main options when it comes to IT:
1) keeping IT onsite;
2) adopting a hybrid mix that involves some cloud-based solutions with some onsite hardware and software; or
3) being fully cloud-based.
When considering which approach to take, lawyers should evaluate its cost, security, and convenience, as well as the amount of time it will take away from their practice to manage each option. Although three options are listed in this article, not all options are an exact fit for every law firm.
The Onsite Approach
The onsite approach is the most traditional IT route, simply because technology has not allowed for many other options until the past decade or so. With this approach, firms set up and maintain all of their IT infrastructures at the law firm.
Cost of Onsite IT
Conventional wisdom holds that medium and large law firms will benefit the most from onsite IT. Solo attorneys and small law firms can often function in a peer-to-peer based environment without a server. However, many of today’s leading legal applications use SQL Server as their backend database. An attorney who selects one of these legal applications will need to purchase and install a server for the application to function.
Setting up onsite IT is an involved process that can easily cost thousands of dollars a year for each staff member. The firm will need to (1) purchase and configure servers for data applications, backup, and security; (2) purchase and configure software programs (e.g., a Windows server, the email server, practice management applications, and time and billing systems); and (3) purchase and set up hardware, including computers, laptops, mobile devices, and Bluetooth devices.
Unless lawyers are intimately acquainted with IT and have the time to devote to it, law firms will find the need to hire IT consultants to help with initial setup and configuration. The initial labor costs can easily reach $1,000 per staff member. Additional consultant costs may arise for ongoing maintenance, unless someone at the firm can dedicate significant time to maintaining and troubleshooting hardware and software issues. As the firm grows and adds more personnel, someone at the firm will need to oversee licensing additional software, buying more hardware, setting up additional email accounts, and ensuring compliance standards are met.
Security of Onsite IT
Many lawyers assume that high security is inherently linked to the onsite approach because the law firm maintains complete control over the files and systems, including how they are stored and shared. However, when software is housed within the firm, it must be updated continuously to make sure that systems are as secure as possible. This means that someone must be available to run patches, checkups, antivirus software, and other tools to ensure that systems are not vulnerable to malware and hacking.
With an onsite approach, the firm must also consider backup plans and disaster recovery solutions. Backup plans should take into account how to host the backup at another site in the event of a natural disaster, fire, gas leak, or other circumstance that makes the firm’s office inaccessible.
Firms also need to consider where they are most vulnerable. According to the IT security firm Trend Micro, hacking and malware account for 25% of all data breaches, while lost devices account for 41% of data breaches. That means that firms need to consider how they can remotely wipe any devices that lawyers and staff have lost or misplaced.
Trend Micro further warns that data breaches caused by hacking and malware tend to be highly sophisticated and deliberate: “Highly customized defense solutions and strategies are required in these cases.” Firms need to decide whether to install consumer firewalls or enterprise firewalls. Enterprise firewalls may be more thorough than consumer firewalls, but they can also be more expensive and complicated to operate. And unless the firm is large enough to warrant a dedicated IT staff member, the firm will need to pay for special training on a regular basis.
Finally, if any of the firm’s clients and their information calls for HIPAA compliance, the firm will need to add additional layers of security. Complying with HIPAA comes with very specific and often costly requirements around physical, technical, and administrative safeguards. Failing to comply with these safeguards can lead to penalties in excess of $1 million per year.
Convenience of Onsite IT
An onsite server is highly convenient because all hardware and software is located just down the hall. As a result, it’s easy for staff and attorneys to check on anything that goes wrong.
However, unless someone at the firm is an IT expert, it will be difficult to fix most problems that arise. That means that the firm will have to bring in an IT consultant to handle serious issues. Along with the added expense, someone at the firm will need to take time away from legal projects to work with the IT consultant. The firm will also lose billable time and productivity while hardware and software problems are being addressed.
A Hybrid Approach
A hybrid approach encompasses onsite IT functionalities and the advantages of specific cloud-based software to support practice management, billing, and other areas.
Cost of Hybrid IT
This approach can be more cost-effective than an onsite system, since cloud-based software and applications normally run on a subscription model based on the number of users (e.g., software licenses for each user) or the amount of storage needed. The manufacturer normally handles all upgrades and patches automatically. This option and the subscription model are often more affordable than buying software licenses.
When considering which programs to host onsite and which to base in the cloud, the firm should consider its current software and processes. The ratio of cloud to onsite applications will affect costs. Firms will also need to spend more time and money managing multiple vendors when some programs are cloud-based and others are managed within the firm.
Because the main goal of leveraging technology at a law firm is to increase efficiency, progress usually involves connecting and automating different parts of a firm’s work flow. This becomes very difficult in a hybrid model. For example, a firm may use a cloud version of a non-legal-specific bookkeeping system and want to link it with the accounts receivable from a time and billing system. Some systems on the market cannot support this approach.
Security of Hybrid IT
The security of hybrid systems depends on the types of cloud-based applications and software that the firm is using. Many cloud-based apps and software offer built-in security contingencies, such as automatically installing the latest updates to address vulnerabilities and potential viruses.
However, attorneys need to be aware that common cloud-based apps or software, such as Google Drive or Dropbox, often have data storage facilities around the world, which might prompt data ownership questions. If the firm’s data resides overseas, it raises the question of who actually owns it. Therefore, when considering cloud providers for any type of information storage, attorneys have a responsibility to find out where their data will be stored. They need to feel confident that their data cannot be lost or stolen and understand who physically owns it.
Reliability and security are also major concerns with mainstream cloud-based services. Amazon Web Services (AWS), one of the world’s largest cloud providers, has been known to stop working on occasion. In September of 2015 roughly one-third of AWS services were down for an excess of five hours. Since the services can support a variety of items such as backup and recovery, websites and business applications, an interruption can impact a law firm’s ability to access critical client files or billing information.
Convenience of Hybrid IT
Most cloud-based software and applications enable mobility, allowing staff and attorneys to access information from anywhere at any time. A hybrid approach is also easier to scale up with solutions that grow as the firm grows and adds more staff.
The Cloud-Based Approach
With this method, all IT needs are handed off to a cloud-based third party. This third party sets up, configures, launches, and maintains hardware and software, allowing the firm to forego servers and backup devices.
Cloud-based solutions normally use one of three ways to configure a law firm’s IT:
1) managed cloud computing platform;
2) desktop as a service; or
3) private cloud computing.
The first approach, managed cloud computing, enables firms and other organizations to share databases, hardware, and software remotely through the provider. With managed cloud computing, law firms can purchase entire virtual servers or parts of cloud servers.
With the desktop as a service model, law firms can utilize virtual desktops that are highly customizable and run from the cloud. Users’ data is downloaded and uploaded to and from the cloud when users log on and off.
The private cloud computing option is similar to the managed cloud computing with one major exception: In private cloud computing, law firms do not share hardware with other companies or industries. A private cloud IT system allows law firms to maintain confidentiality and privilege when handling sensitive data on behalf of clients.
Costs of Cloud IT
When outsourcing entirely to the cloud, regardless of the configuration, law firms usually pay for a subscription-priced service that often offers a lower–entry price point compared to paying for onsite IT. Subscription based services are priced per person and normally include the programs the firm needs to operate its practice, along with IT support.
Typically, cloud providers offer a place for the firm to install an operating system and then build up its IT based on that foundation. Semi-customized programs typically include a desktop built on a Windows-based platform, MS Office, file storage, and antivirus protections. From there, firms can add their legal-specific programs of choice, such as practice management, document management, and document automation systems. This model tends to provide greater stability for the IT budget because the firm will not accumulate unexpected IT costs.
Security of Cloud IT
While all cloud providers tout their security protocols, not all of them understand the unique requirements of those in the legal industry. That is why law firms should consider a cloud-based provider that focuses on the legal industry and offers private servers with enhanced security measures, such as enterprise-grade firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention systems, and dual-factor authentication.
Firms should also look for the physical security of the data center that hosts the firm’s information (e.g., keycard access and biometric identification) and immediate disaster recovery that is enabled by a secondary site. That means that even if the firm’s office is destroyed, or one database supported by the cloud provider is compromised, attorneys and staff will only be one login away from accessing their information.
Convenience of Cloud IT
Cloud IT can be the most convenient approach, as the law firm has to spend little to no time managing IT. With this model, attorneys spend more time practicing law and the staff is able to focus on supporting the firm’s needs.
For small and mid-sized firms, there have never been more options for IT, ranging from systems that are completely hosted onsite to those that reside solely in the cloud. Attorneys should consider factors such as cost, security, and convenience, with the ultimate goal of selecting an approach that enables them to spend less time on IT and more time on their clients and law practices.
Recently 11.5 million documents containing confidential data were stolen from Mossack Fonseca, the world’s fourth-largest offshore law firm, and published online. Hackers gained access to one of the firm’s servers which allowed the hackers to steal valuable data and emails. All law firms collect and store a myriad of client and financial data making them attractive targets for cyber attackers.
High-value data including trade secrets, acquisitions and mergers and personal health information (PHI) can be leaked to the public or used maliciously. For example, a large law firm handling a merger might be targeted by someone who wants insider information in order to buy or sell stock. Not all cyber attacks target complex data — even basic client data can be targeted. For example, a small law firm might be handling a divorce and the other party works in IT and has the skills to discover what the representing attorney has planned.
While the hacking motives vary the consequences are consistently catastrophic for law firms. Data breaches erode the foundation of attorney-client privilege by exposing sensitive data solely entrusted to law firms. Therefore, securing and protecting privileged information is of the utmost importance.
How can you prevent a data breach?
Intrusion prevention and protection systems
Your network should have an intrusion prevention and detection system in place to monitor unusual server traffic. This system helps to identify and shut down hackers, who constantly search IP addresses looking for weaknesses. Two-factor authentication provides an extra layer of intrusion protection by requiring users to enter two forms of identification during the login process. This approach eliminates the chances that a hacker or computer program can log into a system remotely and randomly create passwords.
Law firms should look for enterprise grade firewalls to protect against malicious software and hackers. Some law firms use multiple firewalls to ensure that if one firewall fails, a backup is already in place.
Hackers don’t observe attorney-client privilege, and the highest value target is a law firm’s email. Email is the easiest way for clients to send crucial documents and even medical records to attorneys. Email encryption protects data so only the sender and recipient can view email contents.
Internal and External Security Scans
Hackers are constantly evolving their techniques to circumnavigate existing security protocols to find vulnerabilities. Routine security scans are required to ensure data is constantly protected. Law firms that require ultra-security, for HIPAA or governmental compliance, must conduct internal and external security scans on an annual basis.
Off-site data storage is crucial in case all of the other security techniques fail or a natural disaster, theft or fire occurs. Data from ransomware attacks can be fully recovered using backup records, without paying a ransom fee to recover encrypted data.
Encryption, secure data centers, authentication protocols, intrusion monitoring: Complex IT considerations can make your head spin. Even if you have an IT department or person dedicated to managing those issues, it’s tough to stay on top of the latest threats when you’re focused on building your practice. Thankfully, you have options. Legal Workspace has extensive experience securing law firms from physical and cyber threats. We worry about security. You worry about practicing law.