Attorneys have been hearing about cloud computing and it’s growth in popularity for a while now, but there is still much uncertainty about its practicality and longevity. If you’ve considered the cloud for your firm, it’s likely that you have some of the same questions that come up all the time. The questions below are some of the most common questions attorneys ask about cloud computing.
What about security? Isn’t there a big risk of someone accessing my data if it’s in the cloud? Security seems to be every attorney’s biggest concern (and rightfully so)! First thing’s first is to be sure to choose a cloud vendor that only uses enterprise- level, best-of-breed products and data centers. It’s also important to note that these data centers actually provide you with increased security measures that you would have never been able to afford to protect on an on-site network.
Furthermore, it is important to verify that your data is not just simply floating around the Internet. You should choose a solution that offers a private cloud, meaning your network is built in a specific data center and you have the option to have dedicated servers allocated for your firm. Top cloud computing vendors also all typically use the power of Citrix, which is used by more than 98 percent of all fortune 500 companies. Citrix allows the vendor to deliver the business applications and data to you as an image (much like a window pane) of what is happening on your server and not on the local computer. The only data that is being sent over the Internet are your keystrokes and mouse commands, which are fully encrypted as well. This ensures you not only get great performance and responsiveness, but that your data stays centralized in the data center.
What if my Internet connection goes down for an extended period of time? This is probably the first question anyone has about the cloud. What you can do in order to ensure better connectivity is to get a second Internet connection (perhaps cheap DSL or Cable) and set up a fail-over on your firewall. If your main Internet connection goes down, the firewall will automatically redirect traffic to the secondary connection. Also keep in mind that even if your power goes completely out in the building, you can pick up right where you left off at any place that has an Internet connection (home, coffee shop, 3G connection).
What if the vendor goes out of business? How do I get my data back? Your data should always be yours. An honest and trustworthy cloud computing vendor should never own any of your data, nor should it mine data for any purpose as some other public providers have been known to do. You should have full control of the data and have the ability to download all of your files and folders if you wish.
In the event you choose to bring your network back on-site or to another provider, be sure initially that your vendor promises to provide you with a full copy of your servers so they can be loaded onto hardware of your choice. That way, you won’t need to rebuild your network from scratch.
Do I have to purchase new hardware (servers, workstations, etc.) to move to the cloud? No! That’s one of the great benefits of the cloud. You can continue using the laptops and desktops that you have now, but they will actually feel faster since you are harnessing the cloud computing power from the cloud. Not only does that allow you to keep and use hardware longer, but it allows you to buy less expensive workstations and laptops because you don’t need the stronger computing power required if only working on a local device.
The idea of accessing my work anywhere from any device sounds great, but frankly I don’t like the idea of all my employees having that type of access. Can I control who gets certain programs and files? Absolutely. Your cloud vendor should be able to control permissions just the same way you can on your network today. Just like an on-site network, in the cloud you can setup who gets what programs and what access they have to certain files and folders based on your firm’s requirements. You also have the ability to determine access from device and location. For example, you may have an employee or a group of employees that you only want to grant access from the office. You may also want to grant access based on the time of day, so if you have hourly employees, you can set what times they can log in.
Of course with any new technology, there are numerous questions, and each firm has different needs and requirements they need addressed before they feel comfortable with cloud computing. Be sure to get all of the answers before you move in order to avoid. Allison Foelber