Tech Tip: How to Set Up Cloud Computing in a Law Office
Attorneys have been hearing about cloud and it’s popularity for a few years now, but there are still many questions out there about its viability and longevity. In this article, we’ll explore some of the top questions we hear from attorneys about cloud computing and provide answers to the most common concerns firms seem to have with the cloud. Look at this FAQ as a questionnaire for any cloud computing solution you may be considering, keeping in mind that the answers won’t be the same across the board. The answers below are what you should hear from an IT/cloud computing vendor based on best practices for a cloud platform.
Question: What if my Internet connection goes down for an extended period of time?
To ensure connectivity, get a second Internet connection (maybe a cheaper DSL or Cable) and set up a fail-over on your firewall. If your main connection goes down, the firewall will automatically direct traffic to the secondary connection so that your firm won’t be down. Another thing to remember is that even in the worst scenario where your building’s power is completely shut down, you and your staff can access your network from anywhere via a 3G wireless connection, at home, or even the local coffee shop. Since your network is not housed in your building, your downtime will be minimized.
What about security? Isn’t there a big risk of someone accessing my data if it’s in the cloud?
Security seems to be everyone’s primary concern. When choosing a cloud computing solution, be sure that the vendor only uses enterprise-level products to guard your data and that your network will be housed in a SAS 70 Type II data center. These data centers actually provide you with security measures your firm traditionally would not have been able to afford, including 24/7 video surveillance, 24/7 physical security, biometric scans to enter the building, dual power grids plus multiple diesel generators in case of a power outage, 10+ super high-speed Internet connections, etc. Think of each one as the “Fort Knox” of data centers.
Furthermore, it is important to verify that your data is not simply floating around the Internet. You should choose a solution that offers a private cloud, meaning your network is built in a specific data center and you have the option to have dedicated servers allocated for your firm. Top cloud computing vendors also all typically use the power of Citrix, which is used by more than 98% of all fortune 500 companies. Citrix allows the vendor to deliver the business applications and data to you as an image (much like a window pane) of what is happening on your server and not on the local computer. The only data that is being sent over the Internet are your keystrokes and mouse commands, which are fully encrypted as well. This ensures that you not only get great performance and responsiveness, but that your data stays centralized in the datacenter.
Bottom line is that moving your network to the cloud could result in a much more secure environment than you have today. If a natural disaster or theft were to wipe out all of the servers and computers in your office, you could simply log in from anywhere and continue working. And because all of the data actually resides in the datacenter, no data would be lost or placed in the wrong hands.
What if the vendor goes out of business? How do I get my data back?
Your data should always be yours. An honest and trustworthy cloud computing vendor should never own any of your data, nor should it mine data for any purpose as some other public providers have been known to do. You should have full control of the data and have the ability to download all of your files and folders if you wish.
In case you later decide to move your network back onsite or to another provider, be sure initially that your vendor promises to provide you with a full copy of your servers so they can be loaded onto hardware of your choice. That way, you won’t need to rebuild your network from scratch.
Do I have to purchase new hardware (servers, workstations, etc.) to move to the cloud?
No! That’s one of the great benefits of cloud computing. It allows you to use older workstations, laptops, and servers because the computing power is in the cloud. Not only does that allow you to keep and use hardware longer, but it allows you to buy less expensive workstations and laptops because you do not need the stronger computing power required to work only on local devices.
The idea of accessing my work anywhere from any device sounds great, but frankly I don’t like the idea of all my employees having that type of access. Can I control who gets certain programs and files?
Absolutely. Your cloud vendor should be able to control permissions the same way you control them on your network today. Just like an onsite network, in the cloud you can set up who gets which programs and what access they have to certain files and folders based on your firm’s requirements. You also have the ability to determine access from each device and location. For example, you may have an employee or a group of employees that you only want to grant access from the office. You may also want to grant access based on the time of day, so if you have hourly employees, you can set what times they can log in.
Of course with any new technology, there are numerous questions, and each firm has different needs and requirements to address before they feel comfortable with cloud computing. A cloud-computing vendor can help you maximize productivity and provide security for your clients.