Data Protection & Disaster Recovery Tips for Law Firms

By Derek Brost

While the legal industry is beginning to accept the move toward a technology-based workflow, the burden of network security and disaster preparedness falls heavily on in-house IT departments who have not historically executed such initiatives. Additionally, small firms and individual practitioners may fall short of several standards due to lack of resources, namely data protection and disaster recovery measures. And, as more and more sensitive data moves to the cloud, the likelihood of IT systems downtime or a cyber attack becomes a higher concern.

As the issue of IT threats loom over the unprotected, there are several steps the legal industry can take to ensure critical case data remains intact and accessible.

1. Incorporate third-party providers to manage daily “keeping the lights on” tasks

Hiring a third-party provider can have several benefits for a legal firm. First, by tapping in to other qualified professionals, the practices who have an IT department can take pressure off those employees to execute daily tasks. Once the IT department is no longer responsible for "keeping the lights on" tasks, IT personnel will have more time to focus on initiatives that provide higher value to the firm.

Second, for smaller practices that do not have an in-house IT department, outsourcing these tasks means that qualified individuals will be executing them. Third-party providers who specifically focus on disaster recovery bring the expertise needed to efficiently and effectively plan, test and adjust data protection measures as needed.

2. Implement a disaster recovery plan to account for the full gamut of possibilities

To mitigate the risks of emergency scenarios, it’s important to know that critical case information is protected. Yet, more than just sensitive data pertaining to ongoing cases runs the risk of being lost when a crisis strikes. Important information, such as closing books, employee records or eDiscovery data, could also be completely destroyed if a practice undergoes a cyber attack or loses digital storage devices as a result of a natural disaster. To ensure the efficiency and continuity of the practice, firms must first guarantee that all relevant data will be kept safe to avoid loss and subsequent fines. This begins with implementing an IT disaster recovery plan for a comprehensive list of events (both likely and unlikely), which will give assurance to stakeholders that all information will be preserved.

3. Partner with a cloud provider to protect sensitive data

Working with a cloud provider means that legal practices can customize protection to their specific needs. Not only will customization create a solution that’s perfect for the practice’s unique demands, it can also save legal firms money, as it will avoid spending on services and features that aren’t needed. This is especially important for small practices that have a tight IT budget.

As a legal practice selects a cloud provider, it's important to ensure that the provider can supply proof of compliance with reasonable controls, such as availability, confidentiality, security, processing and privacy. Leveraging a cloud provider’s services also means that the third-party vendor can provide everything that’s needed for a comprehensive disaster recovery plan, in addition to compliance regulations. Because of their expertise in the cloud industry, cloud providers can ensure continuous protection that is tailored to the specific needs of the practices, test for any insecurities and guarantee recoverability in a timely manner.

4. Leverage backups and replication to protect against security breaches

Backups and replication of data means that critical information will be accessible in case of a security breach. Backups are just what they sound like — a secondary copy of the data that is stored either in the cloud or in a physical off-site location. Replication is similar, but is much quicker, as it replicates your data in real-time so it can be accessed within minutes. In the case of a cyber attack like ransomware, legal firms would not be required to pay a ransom fee to get timely data back for ongoing litigation if they have implemented continuous replications and backups of their systems.

Because legal practices are privy to sensitive information, the legal industry has become one of the most important to keep safe. Increasing regulations around this protection of sensitive information emphasizes an unprecedented demand for security and continued service to clients. By implementing these disaster recovery initiatives to ensure the safety of data, practices will be in the clear if crisis strikes.

About Derek Brost

Derek Brost, Director of Engineering at Bluelock, is a certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) with a 20 year background in IS/IT operations, architecture, and information security.

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