How to plan for a data backup and disaster recovery in law firms?

Disasters bring in inexorable and lasting damages to businesses and law firms are no exception. This is due to the fact that, disasters can drive lawyers out of a firm’s office, prevent access to critical client files, disrupt communications inside and outside of the firm, and ultimately put time-sensitive matters at risk.

As a result, in order to safeguard the firm and more importantly its clients, lawyers must plan for disasters well in advance to mitigate the impact when and if they occur.

Unfortunately this is not happening, as firms dealing with legal hassles have neglected to prepare a true disaster recovery (DR) or business continuity plan.

According to the 2012 Legal Technology Survey Report, only 61 percent of respondents reported that their firm has such a plan. That number drops to 57 percent at small firms with two to nine attorneys and to just 50 percent among solo practitioners.

As a comprehensive DR and business continuity plan has many facets, one of the keys in this digital age is securing and protecting the firm’s data.

In today’s digital world of law firms, client files, important communications and valuable work products are often treated as a business criterion. And in case of loss of this valuable data by natural or man made disasters, a high possibility of catastrophic professional and ethical ramification is possible.

If one wants to avoid all such troubles, then starting with a data backup plan is a good step to put forward.

And below is a 5-setp plan to help cover the basics—

Analyze- The first step in developing a data backup strategy for a law firm is to analyze their current data usage. What data do they store, where do they store it, how often do they access it, and what are the risks and costs associated with losing that data? This can prove as a challenging endeavor in environments where data is spread across numerous devices and services such as smart phones, PCs, servers and cloud computing platforms.

This will also open out an opportunity to find out what data is sensitive and where it is being stored till date. For example, sensitive documents are being sent to personal email addresses so employees can work from home over the weekend, the law firm may be facing serious security problems that will need to be addressed along with the backup issues.

In the end the backup analysis should establish the following points-

  • What electronic data your firm currently uses
  • Where that data resides, including the specific vendor/host it’s held outside of the office
  • The approximate amount of data
  • The sensitivity of data, both in terms of time and confidentiality.

Plan- Once the size and scope of data to be backed up is clear, the development of actual backup plan should start from then on. The backup plan should have the potential to provide at least two levels of redundancy, with both data redundancy (having more than one backup file) and geographic redundancy (having the backup files stored in more than one geographic location).

The exact tools and software a firm uses will vary widely depending on the size of the firm and the complexity of electronic efforts.

Note- Data needs to be backed up. But at the same time needs to be secure and so keep security at the front of your mind.

Implementation- It may seem obvious to say that the next step is to implement backup plan, but this is unfortunately where many well-intentioned backup strategies fall apart.  Corners are cut both in cost and time, key efforts are entrusted to people who lack technology expertise, software and hardware is installed but never properly configured, and so forth.

Consequently, it is better to keep in mind that proper backup is critical to maintain a healthy, stable, ethical law practice, and so make a good investment in its implementation appropriately.  If the firm lacks the techniques to do so, they are third party companies’ out their which are good in doing so. Just you need to find an expert and take the help.

Test- It’s similar to a horror story- a business has a catastrophic data loss, turns to a backup system to recover the data and only then discovers that there’s a serious flaw in the backup strategy. Like data was backed up on monthly basis and so the latest but key files might be missing or backup hard drive itself failed. Means the causes are many, but the results are the same.

Therefore, it is always wise to test the backup solution immediately after implementation and routinely thereafter. Better to simulate real-world disaster scenarios, from the major (total loss of a system) to the relatively minor (accidentally erasing a single file). Not only does regular testing help identify problems in a backup setup, it also has the benefit of training the firms staff to quickly and efficiently recover files in the event that it’s necessary to do so.  This means that if a firm ever experiences a real computer loss and need to restore from their backups, they’ll be prepared to do so in a complete note.

Review- Always conduct a full review of the firms’ backup and DR strategies at least once on an annual note, more often if a setup is complicated. Also revisiting the backup strategy as soon as a significant technology investment is done makes sense.

Beyond backup

They are also other things which need attention apart from backup and they are-

  • How they firm will continue key business functions throughout the disruption?
  • Who will take the lead in executing a firm’s continuity plan in the event of disaster?
  • Which assets will be needed and how will they be brought together?
  • How will the firms’ lawyers and staff communicate with one another, with clients and with the courts?
  • How will they re-establish normal practices at the conclusion of the disaster?

Even at small firms, these aren’t simple questions with simple answers.

Hence, Dynamic Network Factory will be happy to help guide you through each step of your backup and disaster recovery planning.

To know more call 510.265.1122 or click on DNF Corporation web page.


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