When setting up my VA practice (which works predominantly with attorneys) I had three mission critical criteria of any web based “tech” 1. Security; 2. Accessibility; 3. End User-ability
1. Security – is the actual tech behind the service or process secure? Here’s what I look for/ask about:
(a) Does it make you use e-mail? Yes? Strike one. It’s very well known in the techy world and I’ve been saying it for years: e-mail is more of a postcard than it is a sealed envelope.
(b) Are all connections to the servers secure? No? Why not? Techy Truth: doesn’t cost anything extra to pull your website visitors through the https protocol – thereby making the connection encrypted. Why wouldn’t a web based service wish to be as proactively secure as possible, especially when it doesn’t cost anything more?! So, when I ask if all connections are secure and I hear “No” or if this conversation makes the vendor uncomfortable, strike 2.
(c) Where are the actual servers a/k/a my data located? If I don’t hear “on US soil” – strike 3. I’m Canadian by birth, a legal resident of the United States who works from my home based office on Long Island, NY. Has nothing to do with anything other should something go wrong with my relationship with that vendor, I do not want service of process to be an international (a/k/a much more expensive) endeavor. Also, “ordinary course of business” can mean different things in different parts – so keeping all my company and client information/data securely within it’s country of origin is a requirement for me.
2. Accessibility – as a mobile professional, this ranks as the second “must” for any tech I take the time to learn, test, incorporate and recommend. I specifically do not mean how accessible I am to my clients and contacts, e-mails, etc. I mean how securely can I get at my practice’s critical information when I want or need? Can I get at it by computer? What about my personal mobile device (Palm Centro) and/or my favorite – by any telephone? In my world it’s all about the options and the more options you have to get at your data (securely), the more mobile a professional you truly are. FYI, the two techs I combine and recommend to my clients and contacts make them securely able to process work using nothing but a toll free number and that’s because of criteria 3…
3. End User-ability – if your clients/contacts can’t understand how to use a tech or if using it is difficult or cumbersome, they won’t. If possible, mold your tech and processes around how they work – not the other way around. I’ve got my tech down to the point where all one need do is call a toll free number and enter a 7 digit user ID to securely dictate everything from correspondence to billing notations, from briefs and pleadings to blog entries. Of course, my clients can also connect to their information in as many ways as I can, it’s just that they don’t HAVE to! Again, to me it’s all about having options.
It’s hard to know what to look for in a web based service. This post provides you with three of the “musts” I have for even considering a technology to incorporate into my virtual assistant practice. Also, just because I work with attorneys, doesn’t mean my/their information is any more important, confidential and private than any other business owner/client – digital security is important for all businesses, not just law firms.
This is just one of the stories contained in the 2009-02/03 edition of The Legal Connection Ezine. Want to read more or see the pictures from LegalTech NY? Sign up here to get the entire issue: www.legaltypist.com (upper right hand corner).