In case you were unaware, October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Cyber security isn't something most lawyers spend a lot of their time thinking about, but this month is a great time to reevaluate the security of your paper file, server, or cloud computing processes at your law firm.
In the modern environment, legal services consumers are savvier than they have ever been before. Consumers are armed with more information due to the rise of review and rating sites. Differentiation points between solo and small firm lawyers have become more subtle; and, they're not always about substantive legal work. In a hypercompetitive environment, the lawyer who presents as more tech-savvy, more capable of seamless online collaboration, and better able to protect his client data, can win potential business based on those differentiating factors. Attorneys are even beginning to implement technology components into fee agreements, in order to drive the point home. Law firms positioning themselves as secure data repositories hold an advantage over their competitors.
Even as consumer demand compels technology adoption, some attorneys remain tech averse and would rather that progress be halted. At the root is a fear of cloud-based services, which facilitate online data retention and sharing, while simultaneously increasing attorney flexibility and mobility. Much of that fear is grounded in misunderstanding. Even if ‘the cloud' is attached to a misleading name, it is not something abstract at all: cloud computing for lawyers is merely the renting of space on a vendor's server in order to access data via the internet. Almost half of the jurisdictions in the United States have opined that use of cloud computing for lawyers is appropriate; and, no state deciding on the question has said it is not.
When the question moves beyond one of general disapprobation, lawyers fall back on an assumption that cloud-based services are not safe, and the data retained there is not secure.
But, consider the paper-based law office, with files strewn everywhere, alternative. In this environment, there is little control over law firm data. Anyone allowed to walk through the law office would be able to misappropriate files, which would then make it extremely difficult to track down the files.
In a law office that employs on-premise technology, similar security issues are apparent. At a small office with a physical server, there's a secretary for security — assuming he or she's monitoring the activity of visitors to the law firm. And, according to Alert Logic's 2012 State of Cloud Security Report, on-premise servers are attacked by hackers more than twice as much as vendor-based servers. A cloud-based technology infrastructure is more secure against both apparent and transparent threats than is an on-premise configuration. At server locations that cloud providers use to store their clients' data, there is heavy security at all hours.
Of course, as there are variations in technology architecture, there are also degrees of difference in cloud security. Having a tool is one thing; having the right tool is another.
What the combination of those features means, in addition to a broader assurance that law firm data will remain secure, is law firms can significantly reduce overhead (in terms of hardware and IT support) as well as administrative time spent on monitoring and updating a security infrastructure. This has a positive effect on both efficiency and the bottom line. So, is it time to finally make the secure move to the cloud?
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