As the COVID-19 coronavirus spreads across the globe, companies in affected areas are enacting remote-work policies in order to maintain critical operations during social distancing efforts and to support employees in regions where schools have closed.
Law firms should consider the potential business implications of large-scale remote work and whether they have the technical capability to implement a plan that meets their obligations to employees and clients.
For small and mid-sized firms with onsite servers, achieving remote access that will support all office users simultaneously will be a difficult undertaking.
If your firm operates with onsite servers, will you be able to continue serving your clients if your employees must work from home? Here are three steps for determining your remote-work readiness:
- Consider the essential technology resources for your employees
- Assess your current IT to identify gaps to robust remote access
- Ensure solutions meet your security requirements
Email and file access – Your employees will require access to key resources such as emails, documents and software. Software that is Cloud-based can be accessed from outside of the office, whereas some legal software, such as PC Law or Time Matters, is run locally from your desktop and server room.
Internal communication – Team communication is paramount when working offsite. Firms have a variety of options for keeping their employees in the loop, such as video/ teleconferencing and instant messaging apps such as MS Teams and Slack, which are effective tools for facilitating real-time collaboration.
Client communication – In-person meetings and travel can be substituted with video and teleconferencing technologies, which need to be available in your employees’ homes. Thankfully most mobile devices come with built-in cameras and microphones, and web-based services such as Zoom or MS Skype are easily accessed on the web.
Office calls can be forwarded to mobile devices and voicemails retrieved using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), PBX and cloud-based phone systems.
What IT infrastructure does your firm require for a robust remote solution?
Remote connections— There are two primary methods for remote access: connecting to a computer in your office through a VPN, or using a cloud-based virtual desktop. You may need to assess if your current remote access solution is designed for occasional access by a small number of users, such as lawyers, or for full operational use by everyone in the office.
Cloud or offsite backup— Should your office become inaccessible, you should ensure you have full backups at a secondary location. Data should be backed up regularly to a secondary site or to the cloud. Regular restore testing is an essential element of your backup plan.
User support – Adapting to unfamiliar work environments, technologies and processes means your employees will require timely, professional IT support. Remote work goes two-ways. If users are working from technically diverse remote locations, the ability of IT staff to remotely support users, from their own homes, is essential. This should be thoroughly tested before it becomes a necessity. It is also likely that the efficiency of IT support will be reduced, so users will need to be prepared for slow-downs in support from firm IT staff.
VoIP—Voice over Internet Protocol enables employees to make and receive office calls and access voicemails and faxes from offsite. Microsoft Teams, amongst other technologies, offers innovative ways for teams to access work phones from remote locations and mobile devices.
Find out why Canadian law firms are switching from onsite IT to a Private Cloud
With a shift in the location of users, there are new challenges for ensuring the security of client information. Users are much more likely to transfer data out of the protected office network, especially if the remote solution suffers inadequate performance.
Users are more socially isolated, so it may also take longer for security issues, such as email phishing to become evident. Malware can capture usernames and passwords, which is why two-factor authentication is a strong recommendation for remote work by law firms.
If firms have implemented remote access using on-premises servers, they should act quickly to ensure that their security requirements are met, as implementing solutions and upgrades may take time.
Firms must always plan for unexpected interruptions from events such as server damage from power surges, fire, or flood and have contingency plans to get up and running as quickly as possible.
COVID-19 represents a new threat requiring large scale remote work. Run-of-the-mill remote access systems will not be sufficient to keep firms running smoothly.
LexCloud.ca Private Cloud offers a fully remote office system that eliminates the need for on-site IT and ensures your firm can continue to operate in any scenario. Your files and applications are hosted in our professional data centre and are accessible from any location with no compromise to functionality or security. The system is fully supported by our team of legal IT professionals with decades of experience supporting remote users.
LexCloud.ca allows you to pick up and practice whenever and wherever you need to, so you’ll never have to worry about onsite disruptions again.
For more information on hosting your IT in a Private Cloud, read our Executive Summary for Firm Partners