Disaster Backup For Law Firms:
Online Storage Saves The Day

fireOnline data storage via cloud computing offers law firms many benefits, as we’ve discussed in the past. There are a host of reasons to use web-based practice management software over the old school premise-based options, including 24/7 access to client data from anywhere, affordability, simplicity, quick start up time, and the ability to eliminate IT staff and software management requirements. Because of all these benefits, managing a law practice in the cloud is the right choice for many firms.

But if you’re still not convinced, there’s another reason you might want to consider storing your law firm case files in the cloud: disaster backup. After all, you never know when disaster will strike, whether it’s a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, flood, or, as occurred earlier this year in Brooklyn, a fire.

This particular fire struck a Brooklyn storage building and completely destroyed all of the paper files that were stored inside, including 85,387 boxes of records that belonged to the New York State Office of Court Administration (OCA). The files destroyed were records from all five boroughs and consisted of closed court cases:

The lost records include 19,108 boxes from the criminal division of Manhattan Supreme Court. The boxes contained case files and court transcripts from felony matters between 1940 and 1998.

The biggest hit was to family court files — 34,187 boxes worth, dating from 1954 to 2006, were scorched in the flames.

Also lost were 1,213 boxes containing Manhattan Supreme Court civil records from 1911 to 1954 and from 1985 to 1997; 18,721 boxes from Brooklyn Supreme Court (civil) from 1873 to 1941 and 7,668 Bronx Supreme Court boxes from 1983 to 1995.

Unfortunately, it appears that the OCA had no backup procedures in place, which is why nearly all of the files are considered to be unsalvageable. The OCA even brought in a disaster recovery firm, but to no avail:

“There is nothing that was salvageable,” said OCA Executive Director Ronald Younkins. “They had an outside company that specializes in restoration of documents and disaster recovery. They came and — nothing.”

When the destroyed files are requested, the OCA plans to try to reconstruct partial case files through other means. In some cases, they hope to obtain records for more recent cases by accessing records for cases that had been e-filed. But for all other matters, the plan is to request access to files maintained by other offices:

OCA may ask the district attorneys’ offices to share documents and some disposition data is computerized. Also, some records were scanned or preserved on microfiche.

In other words, the few records in OCA’s possession that were salvageable were those that had been stored in digital format.

While you might think this type of disaster is unlikely to happen to your law firm, are you really willing to take that chance? Fires and other disasters are not as rare as you might think. Case in point: a fire that broke out earlier this year in a high rise building in downtown Buffalo.

The fire originated on the 15th floor, which was the location of a law office. According to news reports about the fire, confidential client files were strewn onto the street below as a result of the fire itself and the firefighters’ efforts to put out the fire:

“According to the Buffalo fire commissioner, a slew of legal files, some of which may contain private information, are flying around the streets of Buffalo after a fire broke out on the 15th floor of Main Place Tower in Buffalo … The documents are all old case files from closed cases, but could contain sensitive information many customers of (the law firm) might not want prying eyes to see.”

Just like the lost court files in Brooklyn, this nightmare would never have occurred if the firm had converted their client files to digital format and stored in them in the cloud on servers located off site. Had the firm move to a paperless practice prior the to fire, the fire would have damaged equipment and office supplies, but client confidentiality would not have been compromised and the firm would still have access to the case files that were destroyed by the fire.

That’s why offsite storage of digital documents is so important. It provides a safe, accessible form of backup for your law firm’s files. And, because all of your law firm’s data is housed in a secure cloud environment, it is protected from onsite physical damage, whether due to extreme weather, a fire, or some other type of calamity.

With cloud storage, you’ll have one less thing to worry about. Your law firm’s confidential client data will be safely stored on cloud computing servers with built-in redundant data backup — where data is regularly backed up to multiple servers located in different geographical regions. In other words, when your law firm’s data is stored in newly built, cutting edge, cloud computing data centers you can rest easy. Because even in the face of disaster, cloud computing will save the day.


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