Backing up your digital data is crucial for obvious reasons, and yet many law firms aren’t backing up their data, or aren’t doing it properly.
Some lawyers don’t backup because they feel lucky, and believe that a hurricane, earthquake or terrorist attack will never strike them.
Those lawyers are failing to consider the high incidence of mundane catastrophes, e.g. hard-drive failure, or theft of equipment.
Backing up data isn’t that hard anymore, so modern lawyers have no excuse for not doing it properly.
The Key Elements of Proper Backup
A proper backup system will:
- Duplicate key data on all devices (not just computers)
- to a secure offsite location
- continuously throughout the day, or as changes are made to files.
In the past, only I.T. professionals were responsible for doing proper backup. Today, it’s clear that each of us can fairly easily set up reliable backup systems that happen automatically, not only for computers, but also for mobile devices.
For example, iPhone users can easily use Apple’s iCloud service to create reliable, continuous, off-site backup for minimal cost. Android users can easily do the same.
Backing up computers using is easy and inexpensive, as well. Services like Carbonite, Crashplan or Backblaze allow you to backup all the data on your computers for a fixed monthly cost, typically around $50 per year. You can get business-class backup services at a reasonable cost as well.
Automatic and Foolproof
The best reason for using these cloud services is that setting up the automated backup is practically foolproof. And once backup is configured it happens automatically as long as the computer is connected to the Internet.
In fact, the prevalance of high-speed internet is what has made it possible for reliable offsite backup to be so easy and affordable. And all of the top-tier cloud-based backup services will offer sufficient security (i.e. encryption).
Obviously you should carefully read the terms of service of cloud-based providers before uploading client data. The best place for you to start is by consulting this ABA resource which will help them determine if your state has ethics rules regarding the use of cloud services for storing client information.
What about Dropbox?
Finally, you should be aware that some popular cloud-data services that you might not think of as offering backup. For example, folks who use the very popular cloud service, Dropbox, are backing up their data (1) reliably (2) continuously (3) to a secure offsite location. So, if you’re using those services to handle your data it’s being backed up.
Dropbox, Sugarsync and Google Drive are often thought of as mostly file-synchronization services. But synchronization happens because they store data in their “cloud-based” servers. That means that data is also being backed up.
And services like Dropbox offer more than just synchronization and backup; they also allow you to restore a file that was changed or deleted. Also those services allow you to easily share large files by sending an email recipient a special link, instead of trying to send an attachment that is likely to be rejected by ISPs as being too large.
The popularity of Dropbox and similar services stems from the fact that it solves so many different problems, and does so at a low cost.
Dropbox is dead-simple to use, and that also explains its popularity. But, the focus here is on reliable backup, and the point is Dropbox is another way to accomplish this, although you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version ($99/year) in order to ethically use Dropbox to store client files.
And you might also need to add a third-party encryption service like Boxcryptor, which costs about $48/year.
Let’s be clear: we’re not saying you should use Dropbox as substitute for dedicated backup services. The key takeaway is that cloud-services like Dropbox (or Sugarsync or Google Drive) give you extra protection, i.e. an additional backup system.
And frankly, it’s often easier to restore data from Dropbox because it creates an exact copy of your folder structure.
It’s never been easier, nor cheaper, to backup data than it is today. And the modern lawyer has no excuse for losing data.
If you want to learn more about technology essentials for small law firms check out our free 3-part mini course, which will help you modernize your law firm and make every thing run more smoothly.