Is your firm ready for the cloud?
Legal firms in the UK are increasingly turning to Cloud computing solutions to deliver sustainable competitive advantage.
Indeed, these solutions may allow smaller legal businesses access to a level of sophistication that would normally be just out of their reach.
It enables them to punch above their weight.
However, as with most things in business, new opportunities also present new risks and new challenges.
In this two-part blog I will investigate these risks and challenges with this first part considering the Data Protection Act and the role of Data Centres. The second part will look at accessibility and the challenges facing small legal firms in moving toward Cloud-based solutions.
The biggest concern heard from owners of legal practices is that over data protection.
You know that as a data controller you are obliged to keep all your client information confidential, ensure against unlawful processing, prevent against accidental loss or damage and have safeguards in place to keep it in that manner.
How, then, does handing all that personal data over to a Cloud provider for safekeeping make any sense at all?
Let’s consider, first of all, what happens now.
If you look around your office you’ll probably see a number of case files either neatly stored in shelving units or sitting open at desks actively being worked on. One of your colleagues may have taken a case file out to a tribunal. Your back-catalogue of closed cases will be held securely by a filing storage company.
You’ll probably have a PC for each employee and you might have a server that they log into. The server may also allow your colleagues to access client information remotely but securely. The data it holds is probably backed-up offsite.
Your colleagues may have a laptop so they can refer to case matters in court. Some may use a USB stick to finish work off at home on a workstation there. Others may simply email it to a personal account.
Now let us consider a couple of unfortunate but plausible scenarios.
You normally make sure everything is switched off before you leave the office. Last night, though, you were running a bit late and had promised to be back for the kids’ taxi run. In your haste, you forgot to switch off the photocopier.
Somehow, overnight, it developed an electrical fault and started a fire.
Unfortunately, the photocopier was situated right next to that shelving unit of case files. Fortunately for you, though, this must all have happened only minutes before you had arrived early to prepare for a 9am conference call. You called the fire brigade who, luckily, were able to respond almost immediately.
They dealt with the problem swiftly, but the damage had been done – about half of the files were totally destroyed, the other half were now in gradiated stages of burnt and wet. Three of the office PCs had to be scrapped.
A simple one. Your colleague left his laptop on the train home for the weekend. He was working on that important case. The laptop never turned up again.
You arrive at your office one morning (early again – another conference call to prepare for) only to find you had been broken into. They must have brought a van round to the rear car park where nobody can see what’s going on from the main road. The back door was damaged and it looks like all the computers have been taken out that way. Not only that, they’ve taken the flat screen from the reception area wall. You only bought that last week.
The Detective Inspector who turns up suspects that the culprits will wipe the hard-drives to make them look re-conditioned – but what exactly was stored on them..?
I don’t need to spell out the consequences of each of these scenarios to your sensitive client data – and I am pretty certain you can think up many more of your own.
Cloud computing may not be the panacea to all this risk. However, it can mitigate a number of these issues. By investigating how Cloud providers operate, many of the misconceptions and natural wariness some business owners have on the subject may be addressed.
To meet the demands of the Data Protection Act, Cloud solution providers for UK legal services only operate out of UK-based data centres. These centres are multi-million pound, state-of-the-art facilities that far surpass levels of security and resilience that could ever be achieved by small businesses.
The controls in place in such centres means that the security surrounding the physical and non-physical protection of your data is extremely high. Sophisticated fire suppression systems mean that even if the early stages of fire are not detected, such threats are dealt with swiftly with waterless extinguishers. Power sources are uninterruptible which feed the server racks and environmental controls that manage temperature and humidity at optimal operating levels.
Even in the unlikely event that any of these controls are breached, service providers will switch operations over to a replicate data centre thus maintaining business continuity. And – with a green hat on – economies of scale and the use of latest technologies mean that efficiencies in these centres are optimised, providing an overall reduction in carbon footprint.
In the next blog post, we’ll take a look at accessibility, security and the challenges you might face when switching to the cloud. See you then.
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