You Got Served: What Do You Do When Your Server Crashes?

That is, after you panic, and flee your office in terror.

When you return, to the smoking carcass of the device you had relied upon for so very long, it’s easy to feel like all is lost.  But, it isn’t — as long as you’ve backed up your data.

Many law firms still run on traditional, physical servers, housed in-firm.  When those devices break down, those firms are left with a basic decision to make: Get another one, or find another option.  When those firm managers begin to explore the costs of replacing a server, it is then that they start thinking about cloud-based options.  Replacing a server is expensive; and, in addition to acquiring the hardware itself, there are related costs in play: like allocation of storage space and fans using electricity to make sure the whole operation is cool In both the short- and long-term, it is more cost-effective to rent space on a sever that someone else maintains — and, that’s really all that the cloud is: a server rental.

When lawyers start talking about replacing servers, that’s when they start getting serious about the cloud.  Of course, the relationship status between most lawyers and the cloud is: ‘It’s complicated’.  The initial excitement related to the additional mobility and flexibility that cloud services offer can wilt in the face of lawyerly questions, like: ‘Is it ethical?’  ‘Is it safe?’

At this point, more than half of American jurisdictions have passed judgment on the ethics question, and all have come to the same conclusion: Reasonable use of cloud services is permissible.  And, really, what else could they have said?  Attorneys are going to use it anyway; and, the application of a general reasonableness standard seems like a fair approach.  As to the related question of security, consider, first, the traditional law office: files left out, passwords written on post-it notes, shared log-ins for local applications.  Paperless law firms operating in the cloud are inherently more secure than their paper-based, server-based counterparts.  The remaining security questions relate to a combination of vendor features and user hacks.  Most reputable vendors will feature high-level encryption, as well as access controls — including for log-in (e.g–dual factor authentication) and for screening (conflicted attorneys, non-participating attorneys and staff) users from particular matters.  There are also methods individual users can apply to increase the security of law firm data stored in the cloud, including the selection of strong passwords and the use of pre-encryption techniques.  Reaching a reasonably secure use of cloud products, then, is a matter of thoroughly vetting potential providers and effecting additional, personal security measures, as appropriate.

Good, I’m glad we cleared that up.

Once a law firm has appropriately mourned its deceased server, and after said law firm begins to feel comfortable about making the jump to the cloud, the real fun begins.  Now, a decision must be made about which products to buy.  Most law firms (rightly, I think) will start (and end) with a cloud-based case management program, which could serve as a holistic solution for the running of the majority of law firm tasks and as a retention center for all law firm data.  A productivity software would sync with a case management system, across a number of functions.  Some case management products feature document automation and management tools; but, law firms could opt to utilize standalone programs in each regard.  As I recently wrote about at Attorney at Work, there are a lot of choices for building out a law firm technology platform — and, law firms can choose to try to utilize a complete system, or select a collection of constituent parts that will play well together.  No matter what array the law firm ultimately chooses, there is a cloud-based product, or products, that will suit the need.

See, now that wasn’t so bad, was it?

Your server dying was not an end, but a beginning.

(Of course, if your law firm does retain a server, you don’t have to wait for it to die, before you make the switch to the cloud.  Just sayin’.)

Liner Notes

The End’ by The Beatles

But, not really.