Business Continuity Planning for Attorneys

The recent impact of the COVID-19 virus and subsequent economic hardships highlight the need for better business continuity planning.  Law firms specifically can put plans in place that will lessen the business impact of major events like COVID or other more routine disasters like Cryptolocker, hardware failure or data loss.  Every business needs a continuity plan.  No exceptions.

Background and statistics

Any disruption in normal operations can cost your business money.  Whether that means lower billable hours, client disruption, or brand impact, they can all effect the bottom line.  The statistics are startling.

  • Unplanned downtime costs between $926 and $17,244 per
  • On average, businesses lose over $100,000 per ransomware incident due to downtime and recovery costs. (source: CNN)
  • 7 of 10 small businesses go out of businesses within one year due to data loss.
  • 93% of businesses that had data center outages lasting 10 days or more ended up filing for bankruptcy within one year.
  • 20% of small to medium-sized businesses will suffer a major disaster causing loss of critical data every 5 years.
  • 30% of businesses have no disaster recovery strategy in place

As you can see disasters of some kind are very much a reality for law firms.  There are new strains of ransomware and targeted phishing attacks that happen every day.  There are natural disasters such as fire and earthquake.  There are new threats such as COVID, and the ever-present simple threat of theft.

Your firm needs to take a hard look at its business continuity planning.  If you are not happy with what you see, we can help.

Questions to help your business continuity planning

Normal disasters consist of things like fire, earthquake, theft, hardware failure, data loss, and ransomware.  Disasters that happen every single day to businesses around the world.  The majority of businesses have not stopped to think about what they would lose, or how losing IT systems would affect their business.  Taking the time to examine those questions is a big first step.

Here are some of the questions you should be asking?

  1. What is my cost of downtime?
  2. How many employees would be unable to work if my systems went offline?
  3. What are the critical systems I need to be able to service my customers?
  4. How much downtime if any is acceptable?
  5. What is our goal for recovery time?
  6. How far back do I need to be able to go to recover data? 1 day?  6 months?
  7. Have we considered security and compliance needs?
  8. How many devices need backed up?
  9. How much total data are we backing up?
  10. How quickly do we need to be able to recover?
  11. Who will be responsible for monitoring success of our plan and needed maintenance?

If you can answer these questions, it will go a long way towards helping you form a plan to avoid potential disasters.  Starting with goals in mind will help shape your solution as well as know what timelines you would be looking at for recovery in an emergency.

Examples of potential plans

A small law office has 20 employees.  There are a couple of servers, which house applications for time and billing software internally for the firm along with all case documents.  You can do most of your casework offline.  Your staff could continue to work (albeit not as efficiently) if those systems went down.  The impact is not significant.

In this case, a basic image based backup solution with offsite copy might work well.  It would give you a local copy of your data for fast recovery, and an additional offsite copy in case of site disaster like fire, theft etc.  Add to that someone who actively monitors those backups for success and intervenes when necessary and you have a decent solution.

Let’s change that scenario a little bit.  Say you have 50 attorneys that all work via a case management system that is dependent on several servers on your network.  Your casework is such that when that system is down they can accomplish very little.  This requires a system with a much faster recovery time.

A good one to look into is an image-based backup stored locally on a server that has the ability to spin up that backup in recovery mode.  This allows you to recover your system in a matter of a few minutes.  If you add to that the ability to push those backups offsite to a secure data center, and someone that can monitor and manage the solution you have a real business continuity plan.

Business Continuity Planning for Working Remotely

Another essential part of a business continuity plan that many business owners previously overlooked was offering a solution to work from home.  This has become a glaring omission for many businesses during the current climate of COVID-19.  Many firms with insufficient systems for working remotely have found productivity similar to a complete outage.  Here are some ideas to avoid that.

Web-based applications can be a good solution to offer continuity when working from home.  This solution would essentially take your time and billing software and make it available in a browser.  Most modern software solutions for law firms at least offer the option to be web-based and this allows flexibility to work from anywhere along with security.

Another option would be to set up a remote desktop gateway.  This is a secure way to allow users to connect remotely to a secure server where they have access to applications and data as if they were in the office.  This is a great solution if you have software that does not offer a web based version yet, or security needs that demand you keep all data in-house.

Another option for access to data remotely is a VPN.  With this solution, users can securely authenticate between their remote location and your work network.  This gives them access to files as if they were in the office.  One warning about VPNs though.  Many database driven applications will not function well over a VPN due to overhead on the connection.  If you have database driven applications, a Remote Desktop Gateway might be a better solution for your firm.

Having a solid solution in place that will allow your firm to work from home effectively is part of a complete business continuity plan.

Sum of All Parts

The complete solution will be as good as the sum of all parts.  Take the time to ask the right questions that will allow you to know how to design a business continuity plan.  Once you know what your needs are formulate a plan that will help you reach those goals.  Include in the plan a contingency that will give your firm the ability to work from home effectively.  Finally ensure that you have a quality solution in place to monitor performance of the solution and make repairs as needed.

Many law firms find that they do not have the right resources in-house to tackle a task like this.  Since you cannot afford to be unprepared, the professionals at i.t.NOW stand ready to assist.  We can take the burden of business continuity planning off your plate as far as IT is concerned.  This frees you up to spend more time working on what matters most.

Fill out the form below for a complimentary assessment and price quote for a true business continuity solution that will meet your needs.

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