Confused by the Cloud? Tips for Choosing a Cloud Storage Provider

Legal Workspace CEO Joe Kelly on How Lawyers Can Select a Cloud Hosting Service

Woman in living room with cloud above head
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Even computer-savvy lawyers seeking to ditch reliance on office-based servers to give “in the ether” storage a good-faith effort can easily become overwhelmed by the variety of cloud storage services accessible today. As they ditch any last tether to a desktop or even a laptop computer, lawyers face an array of options for cloud-based storage. As much as some of us are tempted to choose the first provider who promises to make it work and make it secure, others might prefer a more thoroughly reasoned approach before surrendering their data to the great computer in the sky.

This author talked to Dallas-based Legal Workspace Founder and CEO Joe Kelly about how lawyers and others in the legal field might approach a shift from server to cloud and what they might look for in doing so. Our discussion follows.

Lori Tripoli: Is there still much resistance by lawyers to storing their documents in the cloud?

Joe Kelly: There is a little bit. But there is a new generation of lawyers who appreciate not being tied to a server in their office, so they can work safely anywhere. Some holdouts think data is safer in their office or in their server room, but the reality is that, if they are connected to the Internet, their data is much safer with somebody like us with our firewalls, power backups, intrusion detection and prevention systems and all these things that come with data centers.

LT: How do lawyers tend to decide which cloud-based storage company to use? Are there other factors besides price, ease of use, and security?

Joe Kelly: There are a lot of consumer grade options out there that are good but don’t offer specialized applications and services for attorneys. Where we are really different is we hire support people who have worked for law firms, and we get them certified on all of the apps that we support, which is very helpful for migration or export issues.

What makes your company’s product better than, say, Dropbox?

Joe Kelly:  Dropbox is just file storage without many of the functions and safeguards that most law firms find necessary. For example, certain electronically stored records are protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), requiring that covered entities such as doctors and insurance providers maintain strict security standards for confidential information. If a law firm works for a covered entity, it can be subject to HIPAA requirements as well. We have a HIPAA-compliant offering that meets those standards, which the off-the-shelf solutions may not offer.  

What sort of technical support do you offer?

Joe Kelly: We include unlimited support from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in our clients’ own time zone, so they don’t have to buy blocks of time for technical services. We are available 24/7, but there is a fee for technical support outside the designated hours.

Do you provide training?

Joe Kelly: We can provide whatever customization and training our clients require, with nominal charges  for time and any materials.

What happens to the information in the cloud if a law firm breaks up?

Joe Kelly: If lawyers are breaking off to start a new firm and don’t want to make a huge capital outlay, they can contact us to make sure that we are set up to help them, and we work with all parties to assure the correct data is being migrated to the new firm.

That process usually takes less than a week. One thing to consider is which firm will maintain the old firm’s domain name and forward any emails that might come in.

How do you know if you’ve been hacked?

Joe Kelly: The first line of defense is firewalls and an intrusion detection prevention system (IDPS). Additionally, we log all user access to files and folders. Our security administrators regularly go through logs and look for weird patterns, such as if a user attempts to access a large percentage of a firm’s files. We are in front of any issues with our IDPS. An IDPS automatically blocks IP (Internt Protocol) addresses if weird traffic is detected. We actually monitor both IDPS and security logs.

If a customer terminates an agreement, is his data destroyed?

Joe Kelly: We send a copy of all data back to the customer in encrypted form.

We only retain data for 14 days. If we ever take servers out of commission, we use Department of Defense Level 7 software to fully erase those drives so there is no data leakage.

How did you get involved in this business?

Joe Kelly: I studied management information systems in school and then started Business Network Consulting, an information technology and service company, with offices initially in Denver. That company became a leader in information technology outsourcing and consulting for medium-sized businesses. As we continued to expand we kept gaining interest from law firms about cloud solutions and added many as clients, and with the evolution of Internet speed and improved technology, we were able to build a template and offer a suite of applications that could support multiple law firms.