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The Cloud: Background & Best Practices for Small Law Firms


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Cloud computing for small law firms: background information, what is "Cloud", the benefits of Cloud computing and the risks of Cloud computing. Also includes 14 Best Practices to help small law firms find, vet, choose and implement Cloud solutions for their firm.

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The Cloud: Background & Best Practices for Small Law Firms

  1. 1. Worry Free IT The Cloud Background & Best Practices for Small Law Firms March 29, 2014
  2. 2. 3 Points: 1. Small means 5 to 55 attorneys 2. Network 1 has been providing IT support to small law firms since 1998 3. Presentation adapted from a session Network 1 delivered to the Atlanta ALA chapter’s Small Firm Section in 2013 entitled “The Cloud: Enjoy the Cool Breeze and Avoid the Storms”. 2
  3. 3. 3 The Cloud: What is it? What is “The Cloud”? Here’s a good, working description: • “Cloud Computing” is a server(s) on the Internet that provides infrastructure or applications. • The equipment is owned by the Service Provider. • Generally a “pay-as-you-go” model is used based on the number of users. • Can access the Cloud from anywhere: office, home, remote. Infrastructure Applications
  4. 4. 4 Cloud Infrastructure Infrastructure is the IT equipment you used to need / have on-site at the firm. Here is a list of examples followed by some Cloud providers: Infrastructure • Servers (Rackspace, Amazon Web Services, Peak 10, Network 1) • Phones (RingCentral, Vocalocity, Windstream, Earthlink) • Storage (Dropbox, iCloud, SkyDrive, Barracuda, eFolders, Peak 10) • Virtual Desktops (Citrix, VMware HorizonView, Hyper-V). These solutions are cloud-based when they run on a Server service provider’s infrastructure. Internet Client Service Provider Data Center
  5. 5. 5 What Are They Called? Solutions are generally referred to in one of three ways: Infrastructure • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) • Cloud-based (fill in the blank) • Cloud-(fill in the blank) Internet Client Service Provider Data Center
  6. 6. 6 Cloud Applications • Hosted Email (AppRiver, Intermedia, Microsoft 365, Google mail) • Spam Filtering (AppRiver, Postini, GFI) • Legal Research (LexisNexis, Westlaw) • File Sharing (ShareFile, Accellion, YouSendIt) • Fax Services (eFax, RingCentral, GFI, Biscom) • CRM (, SugarCRM, SalesLogix) • Desktop Apps (Office 365, Google Apps) • Small Law Firm Apps: See next page Applications Internet Client Software Vendor Data Center There are a wider variety of Cloud- based applications compared to infrastructure. Here is a list of examples followed by some Cloud providers:
  7. 7. 7 Small Firm Applications • Orion (Orion Law Cloud Services) • Rippe & Kingston (LMS Cloud) • Amicus Attorney (Cloud Edition) • Worldox (GX3 Cloud) • NetDocuments • QuickBooks (QuickBooks Online) Applications Internet Client Software Vendor Data Center Most small law firm applications have a Cloud strategy, if not a Cloud offering, at this point in time. Below is a list of small law firm applications that have Cloud options (these are sometimes called Software-as-a-Service or SaaS). This is an area of active development so contact the software vendor directly for an up-to-date status.
  8. 8. 8 Cloud Infrastructure + Applications Applications Internet Client Hosting Vendor Data Center With virtualization, the cost of infrastructure has decreased. This has enabled companies like Network 1 to offer solutions. Want to get into the Cloud and keep your non-cloud applications? No problem: consider a company that has invested in the infrastructure and also understands law firm applications like Tabs, PracticeMaster, Timeslips, Time Matters, ProLaw, Concordance, Landte ch, etc. Cloud Infrastructure, combined with the applications and IT support you want, may provide a total Cloud solution that works for your firm. Infrastructure
  9. 9. 9 Cautionary Tales • Amazon Web Services: has had several widely-publicized outages. • Google (lack of) privacy: Google’s privacy agreement gives it the right to look at your email… and it does. • Dropbox security breaches: service started with a clear focus on the consumer market and has tried to evolve into a business-class service. Has been hacked on several occasions. • Megaupload raid/shut down: service was raided and shutdown, immediately, by the FBI. Here are some better-known cautionary tales from the Cloud:
  10. 10. 10 The Wild West Cloud computing reminds us of the Wild West: great opportunities salted with bad guys and danger lurking at every turn. There are strong benefits – if you make the right choices – and big risks – if you make the wrong choices.
  11. 11. 11 Cloud Benefits • Latest software version. • Better security for IT infrastructure. • Environment hardened to resist disasters. • As competition grows, prices will drop. • Numerous choices. • Same user experience, no matter where the Cloud is accessed: office, home, remote. • Flexibility to add / subtract quickly & easily. • Subscription model means no upfront capital outlays. The benefits your firm gains from the Cloud depend on your specific situation. However, here are some common benefits: J
  12. 12. 12 Cloud Risks • Security (this was also on the “Benefits” list; highly dependent on the service provider). • Fewer application features (can be a “gotcha” for some software; QuickBooks Online is a good example of this). • Viability of Service Provider. • Possible high transition costs. • Uneven performance . • Uneven support. • Bad guys abound in the Wild West: some are malicious while others are inept. Here are some things to look out for when you’re doing your due diligence: L
  13. 13. 13 Cloud Best Practices • Who are their competitors? • What are their stated service levels? Do they consistently meet or exceed them?. • How do they back up your data? What’s the frequency and location(s), media used and length of retention? Are test restores done on a regular basis? • How do you get your data if you fire them? How much will it cost? • How will you get your data if they go out of business? • How good is their support when you need help? • Who are their clients? Call several of them (at least three) and ask tough questions (like the ones above). Best Practices Check out the Cloud Company / Offering
  14. 14. 14 Cloud Best Practices - continued • Separate Internet & telephone circuits. • For hosted phone, buy bandwidth and hosted phone from same provider. • Get a high-speed connection to the Internet; fail-over to slower circuit if it goes down. Fail-over is especially important if you have a cable connection (i.e., Cox, Charter, Comcast, Time Warner). • If you use Infrastructure-as-a-Service, do not use a high-speed cable connection. Get a high-speed connection from a traditional telecom provider (i.e., Windstream, Earthlink, Cbeyond, AT&T) that provides a Service Level Agreement (SLA). Best Practices Connectivity / Bandwidth
  15. 15. 15 Cloud Best Practices - continued • Make sure your office environment is secure with a business-class physical firewall. • Have complex passwords set and a policy to change passwords. • If you have a wireless network, make sure it’s business-class, secure with WPA2 protocol, and set up properly – with internal network separate from guest internet access. Best Practices Office Infrastructure & Policies
  16. 16. Worry Free IT Tony Rushin 16