Going Paperless Makes it Easy to Backup Files

So you’ve gone paperless and you have a filing system to help keep all your documents, invoices, statements, and client files organized. Awesome. But uh oh! Your computer crashed! Your only paper backups have spontaneously combusted! The new K9-unit robo dog ate your filings!

Oh man, that sucks. But thank goodness you have a paperless system, so you’ve backed up your files with ease. No stress. Let that robo dog have some cookies. If you don’t have a backup plan for your digital files, let’s go over a few ways you can easily create one that works for your practice.

Why You Should Backup Your Files Digitally

If you only keeps paper copies as backups to your files, stop. Storing paper files takes up space, and space costs money. You’ll have to pay rent on the space itself, pay utilities, pay for filing cabinets, insurance, pay staff for looking after the files, and subject yourself to loss by fire, flood, or paper mites. (Pro tip: if you’re easily grossed out, don’t Google the last one.)

Corgi Puppy Sleeping
Here’s a cute, non-robo puppy instead

Spending a couple hundred bucks once on a nice external drive is a lot cheaper than renting storage space by the month.

Backup Using the Cloud

Although there are privacy concerns with cloud computing, it’s an easy and convenient way to backup your files. backup your files. You may already be using a cloud service to backup your files if you’re using a service like Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive, or OneDrive. Some software you use, like Rocket Matter, already have document storage and backup built into them too.

While all these cloud-based systems regularly back themselves up so you won’t be working with old data, sometimes it’s nice to have a copy of all your files securely stored on another cloud system, incase something catastrophic happens and all your data gets wiped on one system or the other. It’s easy enough to copy and paste your data from one cloud server to the other, though how long it will take will depend on how much data you have.

If you don’t want to manually backup your files yourself, there are services that will automatically backup your files every few days, like Carbonite, so you can focus on other things, like nursing your rancor back to health.

Backup Using an External Hard Drive

If backing up using the cloud doesn’t appeal to you, or you prefer to have as few third-parties with access to your data as possible, then backing up your data using an external hard drive is for you.

External hard drives are readily available all over the internet in all sizes and prices, with the faster, larger capacity ones going for more than your run-of-the-mill USB drive. Though for attorneys, it’s a better idea to invest in at least a 4TB drive. These generally run for about $100/drive and can hold about 2000 hours of video, so it should be a good start for your storage needs if you don’t want to have smaller, designated hard drives for certain years or matters.

Using an external hard drive for backup is not without its own risks. You could lose it (which would be a nightmare if you don’t have it password protected), it could be destroyed in a fire, flood, spontaneous combustion, or by robo dog, or wiped if you’re standing next to a large magnet in your spare time.

Hopefully, you’ll store an external drive in another secure location—which protects you from an office fire wiping out everything. You can also purchase fireproof external drives that claim to be just like aircraft black boxes. They cost more than a regular external drive, usually around $300, but they’re well worth the peace of mind.

Given how important your law firm’s data is, it’s best to use a combination of these backup options to keep your data safe. The most important part of a backup plan is to follow through with it.

Based on a previous post by Randall Ryder dated December 9, 2010.

44 Comments

  1. Avatar LawyerBlog says:

    Thanks. The other major concerns with cloud computing is software infringement and getting your data back at termination.

  2. @LawyerBlog: What are you referring to when you say software infringement? And getting data back may have been an issue in the early days of web applications but that concern has been put out back in the same place where I threw all my legacy servers and external hard drives.

    “I can have thousands of people collaborating with me in the cloud, people anywhere who will be able to hear my songs in real time and influence that,” – Will.I.Am

  3. Lawyers interested in a paperless office should not rely on external hard drives. Rather, they should store their data on a network-attached storage (NAS) device that supports transparent encryption and RAID. A NAS makes the information accessible to all users on a network, which is convenient for companies with multiple users. Furthermore, centralizing valuable data on the NAS makes it easier to encrypt, back up, and protect against hard drive failure using RAID technology. Lastly, most business-class RAID devices support transparent encryption, which protects against disaster if a laptop or storage device is lost or stolen.

    I personally use a Synology DS210j with two hard drives set up in a RAID 1, which keeps my data redundantly stored on both hard drives. The data is protected using AES encryption by the NAS, and only users with passwords can access the data. Our systems are set up to map the network storage folder as a hard drive, which makes it easy to use. (Incidentally, we use TrueCrypt 7.0 to encrypt the system volumes of all the computers in our office.) The NAS is set up to use RSYNC to copy all of the data onto an encrypted system in a remote location (aka my apartment).

    The issue with cloud computing is the specter of infringement. If a cloud service uses an unlicensed patent to implement its product, end users may be liable for infringement. Look at your cloud contract. Does it contain a warranty of non-infringement or an indemnity against the same? You may be surprised. The EULA for Onebox, for instance, explicitly disclaims any warranty of non-infringement.

    I would keep my files locally because it’s really not that hard to do. A NAS can be set up pretty quickly, and if you set up two Synology NAS devices at different locations, it is very easy to have them RSYNC automatically every evening.

    • Sam Glover Sam G. says:

      A NAS is way overkill for most lawyers and law firms. Why bother mucking around with a NAS when you have copies of client files on each computer and in the cloud with Dropbox, and backed up to an external hard drive, to boot? How much more redundancy do you need?

      Plus, a NAS doesn’t give you the same flexibility and sharing options that you get with Dropbox or something similar. I don’t want local copies. I want copies wherever I go, and in the cloud so that I can access them wherever I am, whether I’ve got a computer with me, or not.

      As for this idea of end-user, third-party patent infringement, I’m with Danny. That’s crazy talk.

  4. I couldn’t disagree with William more. Why set up your own servers and get NASA involved if experts have already done it? Moving to the cloud should be synonymous with going paperless. Especially in a small business environment.

    I’m going to have to talk to the Boston Red Sox about this idea of software infringement with cloud computing. Because that is coming out of left field. But if Carl Crawford is any indication, outfielders are worth a lot…

    • Attorneys may set up a NAS rather than rely on the cloud because:

      (1) Their data is encrypted and protected from everyone except for end users;
      (2) I can choose which third-parties I disclose the information to; read the Dropbox license—where does it say it will not disclose your information to a third party?;
      (3) For day-to-day operations, key information is accessible by a company MUCH faster on the network than on Dropbox;
      (4) A NAS is not that expensive or difficult, and provides a high level of reliability;
      (5) A NAS provides a centralized backup of all your office systems, and then only the NAS has to be backed up to an encrypted external hard drive;
      (6) A NAS can hold 2 TB of data in a RAID configuration for less than $500. Try to hold 2 TB on Dropbox.

      • Sam Glover Sam G. says:

        You seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding of how Dropbox works. My files are stored on my hard drive, not “in Dropbox.” Dropbox takes care of encrypting the files and syncing them through a secure SSL connection, and storing them—encrypted—on its servers.

        So:

        1. Dropbox also encrypts my data (my files are also encrypted on my hard drive, by the way, but not with Dropbox)
        2. I can choose which people I share my data with (I’m not sure you have read the Dropbox license)
        3. My hard drive—where my files are stored—is faster than your network
        4. Dropbox is cheaper than your NAS, and way easier to set up and maintain
        5. So does Dropbox
        6. Okay, but I don’t need 2 TB; I need way less than the 100 GB I get with Dropbox
        • You’re missing the point. Dropbox can disclose the information to third parties if they wanted to do so. There’s no obligation on them to keep your information secret only on court order or subpoena or to comply with a law enforcement process. =/

          • Sam Glover Sam G. says:

            The only information Dropbox can disclose to third parties is my name and e-mail address, since it cannot access my files, which are encrypted according to its ToS. Not too worried about that. I’ve never gotten Dropbox-related spam.

  5. Avatar Randall R. says:

    Fireproof hard drives people! Fireproof!

  6. Avatar William Chuang says:

    It’s hilarious how lawyers are ignoring the issue of patent infringement. You can say the risk is small (which I believe) but there’s no way you can say the problem doesn’t exist. Look at the section from DropBox’s license agreement.

    “THE SITE, CONTENT, FILES AND SERVICES ARE PROVIDED “AS IS”, WITHOUT WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED. WITHOUT LIMITING THE FOREGOING, DROPBOX EXPLICITLY DISCLAIMS ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE OR NON-INFRINGEMENT AND ANY WARRANTIES ARISING OUT OF COURSE OF DEALING OR USAGE OF TRADE. YOU ACKNOWLEDGE THAT USE OF THE SITE, CONTENT, FILE AND SERVICES MAY RESULT IN UNEXPECTED RESULTS, LOSS OR CORRUPTION OF DATA OR COMMUNICATIONS, PROJECT DELAYS, OTHER UNPREDICTABLE DAMAGE OR LOSS, OR EXPOSURE OF YOUR DATA OR YOUR FILES TO UNINTENDED THIRD PARTIES.”

    Read that over a few times. There’s no warranty of security or non-infringement or losing all of your data. Perhaps that fine for some lawyers but the data is my (and my clients’) livelihoods. I would not want to lose it or have it leaked.

    A NAS costs less than $400 and takes maybe an hour to set up for anyone of minimal technical competency. You can have your computers back up onto NAS, then back up the NAS onto an external hard drive once in a while or have it back up onto another remotely-located NAS. You can also remotely access all of your files from the NAS.

    • Sam Glover Sam G. says:

      There is no warranty regarding infringement because there is no risk. Users aren’t liable for the company’s patent infringement.

      As for data loss, of course they aren’t promising anything. But the whole point of Dropbox is that you also have a copy on your hard drive. If Dropbox vanishes overnight, it won’t impact our client’s files at all. We’ll still have them, and the copies on Dropbox’s servers are encrypted, so there isn’t much risk of them falling into anyone else’s hands.

      • Sam,

        I agree that DropBox retains a copy of the documents on your hardware. But your statement that “there is no risk” of intellectual property infringement is absolutely untrue. The risk is negligible, as I’ve said before, but there is such a risk.

        DropBox’s services may implement a method that cause end users to infringe. In this event, DropBox is liable for contributory infringement while their clients are liable for actual infringement. You will see case law on this topic, most notably, the Metabolite case, wherein a correlation between a test result and a diagnosis was patented, and thus doctors interpreting a test result to make a diagnosis would be infringing (in their minds!) while the lab company was liable for contributory infringement.

        It is a very small risk. However, most large companies that use cloud services will insist on a warranty of non-infringement and an indemnity to that effect. Small users like you and me won’t get them, of course, but the big guys do get them all the time.

        Will

  7. I also wanted to add that if your firm has more than three employees who need to access files, you need a NAS. An external hard drive works for a true solo attorney who doesn’t have a paralegal or secretary who needs to access the documents.

    A NAS is onsite, and you can set up user accounts to limit access to those who really need it. Even if the Internet goes down, you can access the files. You can also get access to the files from the Internet when you’re on the road.

    Dropbox has no way to encrypt your files on the client-side. That means the information is being stored on their systems without any encryption. Think about that.

    • Sam Glover Sam G. says:

      Dropbox encrypts your data before it leaves your computer, and stores it encrypted on its servers. You’re just plain wrong on that count.

      Also, Dropbox allows far more people to access files from far more locations than a NAS would.

      • Sam,

        Respectfully, again, you are wrong. Dropbox does NOT do client-side encryption. In fact, that’s one of the biggest requests from their users. Right now, Dropbox sends the data through an SSL tunnel, which protects the data from men in the middle attacks—but Dropbox receives the information without encryption. Dropbox then performs the encryption process, which is great, but that means that Dropbox can read the information. I guess I should have clarified my complaint is that Dropbox can read your data—the encryption does not protect your data from them.

        Client-side encryption means that the client software will encrypt the files and then submit only the encrypted stream to Dropbox. In other words, Dropbox would never gets your information in plain text as they currently do. This is a legitimate concern.

        A NAS allows you to access files from any where with Internet access. I would say that this would be the same as DropBox.

        Will

        • Sam Glover Sam G. says:

          I dunno. This looks pretty clear to me:

          “Dropbox uses military grade encryption methods to both transfer and store your data.”

          and

          • Shared folders are viewable only by people you invite.
          • All transmission of file data and metadata occurs over an encrypted channel (SSL).
          • All files stored on Dropbox servers are encrypted (AES-256).
          • Dropbox website and client software have been hardened against attacks from hackers.
          • Dropbox employees are not able to view any user’s files.
          • Online access to your files requires your username and password.
          • Public files are only viewable by people who have a link to the file(s). Public folders are not browsable or searchable.

          https://www.dropbox.com/tour

          • Sam,

            You are confirming that there is no client-side encryption. Dropbox may claim their employees cannot read the documents, but how can you verify that? Furthermore, there is no contractual obligation for them not to disclose your information to third parties.

            The fact is that Dropbox gets access to your unencrypted data, and they don’t really promise not to disclose your information to third parties. Moreover, you don’t have a right to delete all the information from their servers once you choose to leave their service. Data retention policies become almost impossible to enforce since Dropbox may have a copy of your information sitting somewhere.

            Dropbox may be fine for most people. But as an attorney, I want to protect my clients’ data from disclosure to third parties. I want to decide who can and cannot get the data. Dropbox makes no such endeavor to keep my data only within my control.

            We can disagree, but the plain fact is that Dropbox gets your unencrypted data, and can basically do with it as they please.

            Will

          • I don’t think encryption is the issue with Dropbox. It’s scalability, having to locally encrypt and locally store data.

            A business with over 10 employees would never use a dropbox tool to manage their firms files…they would either have to use some type of network + dropbox to share or move to a true web based document management for lawyers.

  8. Avatar Derek A. says:

    @William Chuang

    I haven’t actually done this, so I don’t know for a fact that it’s possible, but couldn’t users simply use TrueCrypt on their dropbox accounts – just as you do on your office machines – to effectively add client-side encryption to their dropbox data, thereby alleviating your concerns?

    Great post/comments, by the way!

  9. Hey, Guys,

    I used to negotiate software licenses so the Dropbox License Agreement started ringing all kinds of warning alarms. Dropbox never says it cannot access your information, but rather that their employees cannot. I’m sure that they have to comply with subpoenas. After all, the data reaches their computers unencrypted due to the lack of client-side encryption. One of the worst-case scenarios is bankruptcy. In that case, all the information stored on their servers are considered assets that may be liquidated unless there is a contractual obligation not to disclose.

    As for Derek’s point, yes, you can create a TrueCrypt volume on the Dropbox. However, this increases the amount of time it takes to synchronize across all your systems because it shows up as one huge file to Dropbox. I back up the mission critical stuff (just the client files) onto Dropbox by using Cobian to pull the files off the NAS, then encrypt them file-by-file. This creates a backup of the client files that is secure and has versions in case I fat-finger the file server.

    I am not dismissing the choice to use Dropbox. Cloud services are very important to modern small businesses. However, the considerations that go into these choices are important, and it is always a great idea to point out exactly what risks we’re taking when we use cloud services.

    Will

    • Sam Glover Sam G. says:

      “the data reaches their computers unencrypted”

      You keep saying this, and as far as I can tell from Dropbox’s website, it is not true. The Dropbox utility encrypts your data and sends it to Dropbox over a secure connection, and stores it, encrypted, on Dropbox’s servers.

      • Sam,

        Client-side encryption means that the heavy-duty AES encryption occurs on your computer before it is transmitted to Dropbox. That’s the most secure method of implementing remote storage because no one except for you can access your data. Dropbox does not do this. It sends unencrypted data over a SSL tunnel where Dropbox servers encrypt it.

        There are reasons Dropbox does not want to do client-side encryption. First, it makes it impossible to implement features such as versioning. Second, if you lose your password in a client-side model, there is no way for Dropbox to get your data.

        However, even a rudimentary amount of research will show that Dropbox does NOT implement client-side encryption.

        Will

  10. Since I kind of unintentionally started the debate I feel it’s my duty to re-enter.

    I guess I’d agree and disagree with both of you. DropBox is good for consumers and sole practitioners but can’t scale to small to mid sized law practices. And unlike Sam and Will, I don’t want to have to store my files on my hardrive. I want all of my document organized, searchable, encrypted and managed from the cloud.

    Miley Cyrus said it first but I’ll repeat it…it’s the best of both worlds.

  11. Avatar Randall R. says:

    So basically you all agree that fireproof hard drives are the solution? Point: Randall.

  12. NetDocuments employee and future law school student
    This got longer than I wanted it to be

    Scalability
    I’m obviously not a DropBox Vampire like Sam, but I am familiar with it and have stayed in a Holiday Inn Express. Also, I just perused the DropBox forums and there is no searching tool on the web interface (unless you only want to search file names) which leaves searching up to the OS which is rudimentary at best, unusable at worst, and full text search is out of the question. NetDocuments will dynamically profile your documents by case, by matter, by client or however you want and makes all content, discovery documents, and emails, full text searchable. And I didn’t even touch on document comparison, sharing or other traditional document management function that attorneys are accustomed to.

    Editing
    NetDocuments was built with lawyers and your work in process documents in mind. That’s why huge firms like Dorsey Whitney, Jackson Lewis and Milbank Tweed store and manage 100% of their content in NetDocs. The only snag is OpenOffice. Our integrations with MS Office and Word Perfect make working on documents stored in the cloud no different than docs stored on the PC. And discovery documents, which I assume or TIFS or PDFs, can be opened in a dekstop or online viewer (there is also Zoho online editor built in). With OpenOffice you can still open and save docs with one click, you just can’t create new OpenOffice docs within NetDocuments.

    Security
    You can build your own network, use some encryption software and store all your stuff on some server in your office, then make sure everything is in the DropBox, or you can store you stuff with NetDocuments where every thing is stored at two redundant data centers. Primary being at the LexisNexis data center in Ohio and secondary at a federally regulated bank in Utah where all content is encrypted in transit and in storage.

    Storage
    Our storage is a bit more expensive than storing your stuff in some unknown Amazon cloud with DropBox, but we give all accounts 2GB per user but are flexible depending on need. And you have the option to purchase more (I’ll see if I can get that clarified on the website).

    Software Infringement
    Just kidding.

    No Internet
    You can turn on an echo feature that keeps a locally stored copy of your most recently worked on documents for a specified number of days and syncs back up when internet returns.

    I hope I answered all of you questions?

    So with 10 attorneys, your going to need some type of server, manage that server, upgrade that server, make sure everyone is very very good in their naming conventions and organization…or there is NetDocuments where all attorneys can access all client related documents on one page, set permissions and rights (for interns, paralegals, co-counsel, etc.) at the document level, and use the exact same technology as the biggest firms in America without any overhead.

    Signed,

    The Tim Pawlenty of legal technology

    • Sam Glover Sam G. says:

      You missed my main question: How do you get documents into and out of NetDocuments? Honestly, it feels like you (and the NetDocuments website) are avoiding this question, which makes me wonder how cumbersome it is to use.

      I see all the references to plugins, but (1) we use OpenOffice.org, which doesn’t have a plugin, and (2) I’m not interested in plugins; I want direct access to my files.

      Edit: Is this what I have to do for every document?

      If so, NetDocuments is nowhere near as convenient to use as Dropbox. Watching this video, it looks like it would take me roughly 10 times as long to save a document with NetDocuments as with Dropbox. I can’t imagine switching to something so cumbersome, for 2 lawyers or 100.

      As for searching, anyone with a basic knowledge of search operators can do all the search gymnastics NetDocuments can do, in half the time, with Windows Desktop Search or Spotlight.

      Edit 2: I see I can take a free test drive. I’m going to see for myself.

      Edit 3: Clumsy, one-at-a-time uploads. Yuck. Dropbox is elegant software. NetDocuments feels primitive by comparison. I can even upload multiple documents with FTP, which is as old as the internet. User interface (and aesthetics, for that matter), are important, NetDocuments. This isn’t ready for prime time.

      • My answer from above: “NetDocuments makes working on documents stored in the cloud no different than docs stored on the PC.” You just don’t believe me that you work the same way you do today so I shall describe the process as simply as I can.

        First, for the 99% that use MS Office or Word Perfect:
        Create (2 ways)
        1. In NetDocuments, you click ‘New Document’ which would open a dialog that allows you to choose which application (Excel, Word, Powerpoint etc.) you want to use and in what NetDocuments folder or matter workspace you are storing it in. Click open, and it automatically opens the application, you work, then you close the app. The standard dialog would pop up asking if you want to save changes. You click yes and it is saved.
        2. Open word, create and work on document, click save. Rather than showing you your local file directory, it takes you to NetDocuments and asks where you want to save it. If you put it in a matter centric workspace or folder, it automatically is inherits the profile for that matter making it easy to find in the future.

        It’s no different than what anyone does when storing stuff on an expensive server using funny encryption techniques.

        Editing Documents
        1. You click on the document. It opens in its native application. You work on it. You click save. It is magically saved, backed-up, encrypted in a world class data center.

        **Concurrency control: On your VPN network, how do you know if someone else in your org is working in a doc? It’s easy with one or two people but not with 3 or 10 or more. With NetDocuments, you have check-out/check-in concurrency control so you can see if someone else is currently working on a document and don’t waste time making edits while it is in read only mode.

        For Sam and any others that use Open Office:
        Editing is the exact same as above. Creating new documents however, takes one more step. That is that you must save it locally and then upload. Once it’s uploaded, it will act the same as Word. I’m not saying that in a solo or 2 attorney firm Open Office that NetDocuments is it, but for an MS Office or Word Perfect firm, it is the answer over using a server based DM or some toolbox of windows directory, file syncing, encryption, external hardrives etc.

        Signed,

        I went all the way with the cloud

        • As to your image that I failed to respond to: those fields are customizable and required by most large law firms. They will however, dynamically generate if saved to a specific matter.

          If you do not set up those fields initially, all you need to use is a file name.

        • Sam Glover Sam G. says:

          Is this really the home screen, or does NetDocuments not recognize Chrome or Firefox as normal browsers?

          Oh, it wants IE. Yuck again.

          • Yes. Until the spring of 2011 you need IE for the full experience. I should’ve known you wouldn’t be using IE. This is due to our application integrations with MS Office, Adobe and others that allows you to save and edit documents without uploading/downloading or file syncing.

            Our new UI [New User Interface video is coming out in the spring and will be consistent across all browsers and give support for all browsers.

  13. Sam Glover Sam G. says:

    Just for full disclosure, Danny is from NetDocuments, which provides web-based document management. I’ve been looking at the NetDocuments website, and I can’t figure out how it works. None of the videos seem to show how one would move documents between my computer and NetDocuments, open and save files using OpenOffice.org, or otherwise perform tasks I do with my file system dozens or hundreds of times per day. I’m curious because, while I love the idea of web-based document management, most options I have seen so far force me to download a file before I can edit it, and often require me to upload one file at a time. (Imagine doing that with hundreds of discovery documents!)

    Unless I can drag and drop files, open a file in OpenOffice.org just by double-clicking it, and so on, just as I can with my local files, I’m not interested in web-only storage (or NAS, for that matter). That’s why a VPN is so inconvenient, too. I don’t want to have to copy the file to my computer to edit it, then copy it back when I am done.

    It also looks like NetDocuments limits storage to 1 GB/user, or at most, 2 GB/user with the Pro+ account. That would be insufficient even for my small firm, and I don’t see any way to increase storage on either the pricing or add-ons pages.

    On the other hand, Dropbox keeps copies of my files on my hard drive, so that I can access them from my computer whenever I need them, internet connection or not. And it keeps them synced with everyone else so that we can all work with the same set of files.

    So as to your assertion that Dropbox (or SugarSync, or Box.net, or other cloud-based file syncing utilities) doesn’t scale, I’m curious as to why you say that. As long as we aren’t running into the 100 GB storage limit, and we maintain adequate standards (encryption of all client data on laptops or other mobile devices), I’m not sure why Dropbox would fail to meet our needs, even if we grow to 10 or more lawyers.

  14. Sam Glover Sam G. says:

    Summary RE NetDocuments

    As far as I can tell, NetDocuments is built and targeted at companies using Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office or WordPerfect who don’t have a lot of files, and aren’t paperless (i.e., need to upload a lot of PDF files). Its integration with Office and WordPerfect are impressive, but it is extremely clumsy with other files, and unusable with any browser besides IE.

    Since none of those things apply to my firm, it’s a no-go.

    We’re a multi-platform office. If NetDocuments won’t run on a Mac or on Linux (where IE, and, in the latter case, Office and WordPerfect, aren’t options), it isn’t useful to us. We don’t use Microsoft Office. We don’t like spending a bundle when there are great, free alternatives like OpenOffice.org.

    Probably 75% or more of our files are PDF, as well, and we need to upload large batches of PDF documents at a time. That’s a no-go on NetDocuments.

    And seriously—Internet Explorer? Yuck. I won’t use anything that requires it.

    For firms that limit employees’ options to IE and Microsoft Office or WordPerfect, and dont handle many PDF files, and don’t have all that many documents in the first place, NetDocuments may be an option for document management.

    Don’t get me wrong, that is actually a pretty large market, but for a firm like ours, where flexibility in technology are key, cloud-based file sync like Dropbox or SugarSync are much better options. I’m not convinced that scaling has anything to do with it, either. I think Dropbox (or SugarSync, if Dropbox doesn’t get on the stick with nested shared folders soon) will only be more useful as our firm grows.

  15. Sam Glover Sam G. says:

    Any chance the 2011 version will also support Mac, Linux, OpenOffice.org, Acrobat (it may have this already, but the website isn’t clear), and allow batch uploading/downloading? I think you’d be surprised how many firms want one or more of these things.

    • 2011 will support Mac but not open office. And yes, it already supports Acrobat.
      I don’t think NetDocuments is a good fit for a OpenOffice using firm either but there is zero demand for that.

      So your analysis is sound except for the “not good for firms with a lot of files or PDFs.” I’ll revert back to the Red Sox for that statement coming from left field. I couldn’t imagine 15 attorney’s collaborating on documents using a file syncing tool

      For example, Dorsey and Whitney (1500+ attorney firm), in your neck of the woods, has all of their million plus documents in NetDocuments, searchable and easy to locate and I could name 6-10 more firms off the top of my head with at least that many documents in NetDocuments. And most of those docs were existing when they moved to the cloud. My numbers aren’t accurate but I think about 200 million+ documents reside in the system.

      Signed,

      I got 99 problems but a server and local network aren’t one.

  16. I have been looking into SugarSync, since it has an iPad app that would allow me to access my file documents on the fly in court. How does its EULA, encryption, etc. compare with DropBox? Am I facing the same issues?

    • Sam Glover Sam G. says:

      Yes, basically, although SugarSync is going after small business, while Dropbox is pretty focused on consumers.

      They both have nice smartphone/MID apps, so compare and go with the one you like best.

  17. Avatar Marriott says:

    Good discussion. There is quite a bit of confusion in the marketplace surrounding what a cloud solution is, how multi-tenancy creates value, and how data hosting outside of the law firm can actually be safer and more redundant than a terminal server or VPN.

    The Software-as-a-Service industry has birthed a host of consumerish programs (like dropbox) that won’t hold up to scrutiny of security, architecture, and accessibility. However, there are major players in this space who currently store and manage millions of leading firms documents with the LexisNexis datacenter stamp. These firms share server space with leading financial institutions and publicly traded companies. In my opinion, if the global law firms with thousands of attorneys and 50+ offices can host with these DMS providers then I can sleep at night, knowing they have done their due diligence.

  18. Sam Glover Sam G. says:

    For those spooked by this discussion, I’d check out Wuala. I don’t know if it is as slick as Dropbox, but Wuala explicitly encrypts the data on your computer and takes additional steps to keep it secure.

    Plus, the pricing is better than Dropbox.

  19. People have this impression that somehow data stored on their local computers is somehow necessarily more secure than data stored in the cloud. First, if data is going to be targeted for theft, it’s likely to be targeted for theft by people you associate with – employees, other lawyers, former employees, etc. Second, obviously most networks are not nearly as secure as the people who own them think they are. If you fail to patch software, install updates, use suitably robust encryption on wireless networks, then your data is open for digital theft.

    Just cause data is physically located in your server closet or on your desktop computer does not make it necessarily secure.

    Some cloud computing platforms are not secure, others are. People need to be wary of how their data is stored, regardless of the location. This debate of cloud vs. desktop/local network is sort of beside the point.

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