I’ve been working in and through the “cloud” since before it was called the cloud. My digital dictation and transcription tech is called an ASP. I’ve been using it to work with various sized US based law firms since 2003.
In fact, I’ve written on this topic before. See my post from March 2009: 3 Requirements For My Web Based Tech.
In a nutshell, here’s a few simple questions you can ask the sales rep or whomever you are speaking with at the start of the tech selection process:
1. Where are your servers and my data located?
If the answer is not 100% in the US (or the country in which your practice is located), move along.
2. What kind of security measures are in place for my data?
From the physical servers to the connections to your accounts, all access points to your data should be secure. Every time you log in, you should see https (not http) at the beginning of the url. The “s” means that the connection between your device and the website is encrypted and secure. Other things to look for are display of certifications from companies like Thwate, Verisign and McAfee. Listen to the 15 minute LegalTypist BYOB podcast with Jack Newton of Clio to learn more about these types of certifications and why they are important.
3. Are the servers geo-redundantly backed up to servers also located in the same country?
If there is no geo-redundancy, ok. (That’s when back up servers are outside the same power grid as the main servers). However, back up servers should also be within the same country as the main servers.
4. Who is on staff to fix the servers should they go down?
If the answer does not start with “We have x number of engineers on staff…” or “”those servers are hosted in a remote location; where the only people who can physically access them have biometric permissions in place” … move along.
5. How do I retain local copies of my data?
If a cloud provider does not at least have in place a way to download your contact database into .csv format, that’s a huge warning. Keep in mind that all cloud services are programmed differently – and since cloud means the software too – there is generally no way to manipulate your data outside of that particular service provider. However, if you can get your data into .csv, chances are you can figure out a way (or pay someone) to populate much of it into a different program.
6. Can I work off line?
Is there a way to download a full, local copy of your data that you use until you get back on line and update the cloud data? The answer is probably not. However, desktop resident software companies are starting to notice the cloud and are now creating on line versions of their applications.
7. How long have you been in existence?
The longer the better. If you can get with sustained growth over time, that’s the best possible scenario. The last thing you want is to select a service, take the time to load all your data, then train everyone (including yourself) on how to use it, only to have the company go belly up.
Of course, the above list is not the ONLY things you should ask – however, the answers to these 7 questions should give you a good feel for how seriously the company takes your privacy and the duty of confidentiality you have to your clients.
If you’re investigating a cloud service that I use and recommend, such as Clio or Sten Tel, know that these questions have been asked and answered to my satisfaction (or I wouldn’t be using/recommending them).