As Cloud computing becomes increasingly popular and more law firms trade their server rooms for a Cloud-based virtual desktop ("Cloud IT"), many providers are tacking Cloud solutions onto their suite of services. With so many vendors to choose from, selecting the right provider for your firm can be challenging.
To assist you in your vetting process, we’ve compiled five key questions to ask of a prospective Cloud provider:
1. How much experience do you have with Cloud?
The first and most obvious indicators of a provider's Cloud IT expertise is the length of time they have been operating and delivering the solution and the number of users using it. Ask when they began providing their Cloud services, and ensure their answer refers to the specific solution they have proposed for you. Ask how many clients are currently using it, and the number of users their clients typically have.
It's also important to determine their level of investment. If their business isn’t focused exclusively on Cloud, ask them what percentage is, and whether they have dedicated support in place. Are their employees trained and certified in Cloud technology and best practices? Do they own and operate all of their equipment, or do they subcontract from another company? A provider who owns and has built their own Cloud will be much more knowledgeable about the technology than a company who rents space on someone else’s servers.
2. Do you have experience servicing law firms?
A legal-exclusive provider is most ideal, as the technical needs of law firms are quite different from other organizations. For example, many Cloud providers support only basic Microsoft applications; ensure their solution is compatible with your firm’s legal software and that their staff is trained to support it.
Verify if outside consultants are needed to implement and support mission-critical software such as practice management or document management software, and assess how this will impact the overall cost.
Law firms also require system capabilities in areas a non-legal organization may not – for example, litigation firms regularly deal with large volumes of incoming and outgoing documents, which require resources such as large amounts of storage, powerful indexers and high quality scanners.
In addition to the tools, the provider should also understand typical law firm needs such as the building of ethical walls and adhering to professional obligations around data security and integrity.
In a nutshell, if your Cloud provider can’t anticipate the needs of your firm, you can anticipate problems.
3. How will you keep our data secure?
The only safe option for Cloud hosting that meets the strict requirements of law societies and insurers is a professional data centre. These facilities provide physical protection no office-based server room can, such as flood and fire protection, backup power and Internet connectivity, and onsite security. To avoid potential jurisdictional issues, law societies recommend that firms ensure their data is hosted entirely on Canadian soil.
The provider should have a proactive security protocol in place to guard again cyber attacks like system viruses, data theft and ransomware. Cybersecurity measures should include strong anti-threat software, regular patching and updates along with endpoint management such as firewall configuration and device management.
Access and Encryption
Ask the provider how their users access the Cloud, and how that access is secured. In the case of virtual desktops, users can access and interact with all of their files and apps, which are hosted in the data centre, via any Internet-connected device.
Inside the office, a virtual private network and firewall securely tunnels users directly into the Cloud while shielding their data from threats on the open Internet. When logging in from remote locations, a second layer of protection from two-factor authentication is advisable.
End-to-end encryption is absolutely essential for protection of data at rest in the data centre and data in transit from firm devices. Some providers provide full end-to-end encryption while others will encrypt only the most sensitive data, such as financial information. It is critical that the provider understand the sensitivity of your data and the obligations your firm is under to protect your clients, and this should be accounted for in the service agreement and pricing.
4. How do I know your solution is reliable?
How can you know that a provider’s technology will deliver consistent, reliable service?
Ask them how much unexpected downtime their clients have experienced in the last year, and what caused it. When checking their references, be sure to ask the client if they were satisfied with the amount of downtime and the way that it was handled.
A reliable Cloud IT solution should have built-in redundancy features so that in the event of a system failure, another component will immediately kick in, preventing a major disruption. One of the key strengths of Cloud IT is its easy facility for multi-level redundancy – there is no good reason why a Cloud provider should fail to have these measures in place.
5. Is 24/7 support available?
When placing your firm’s IT into the hands of another company, you need to know they are responsive and supportive of your needs.
The provider should have help desk support with hours beyond the typical 9-5 workday, to suit the needs of a busy law practice. They should also have after-hours emergency support available, with clearly stated response protocols and billing expectations.
The help desk should be professionally trained to support the Cloud solution. If the help desk supports many different solutions, ask if they have dedicated staff who have regular experience and training for Cloud IT. They should also be familiar with the typical software of a law firm and be able to communicate effectively with your software vendors.
With the right provider, Cloud IT is the safest, smartest IT solution for law firms. Contact us today to learn about Cloud Desktop™, Canada's leading Cloud solution for law firms.