Opportunity Cost ‘What a Concept’: 

A four lawyer firm, 15 active users, elected to rent a server five years ago. Server hardware, set-up and related maintenance and remedial support is included.  Compared to a hosted server from any number of vendors at a per user monthly cost of $80. to $150 and the math adds up over five years to $100,000.

The lesson is this, get a second or  third opinion before you commit to that ongoing cloud expense.  You can have a managed on-site server for a fixed monthly fee and have access to it from anywhere.  It is actually easier and faster in use and better for printing compared to the ‘cloud’ hosted server option.

What about disaster recovery, backup and redundancy?  
Disaster recovery on-site and also online (i.e. in the cloud) is something every firm should have in this new age of ransomware.  This too is a newer standard option. Disaster recovery can actually be set to run on totally different infrastructure supported by a company other than the primary system provider.  What if your hosted system (cloud) provider stops answering their phones.

If you would like to speak to a partner at the above referenced firm, or law firm owners in similar firms who have also saved a bundle while benefiting from better performance, just give us a call or send an email.

Two years ago we started our own hosting service and used it ourselves for a year and also with a client. It worked fine, but we backed away from that structure because, honestly, even with a certain level of redundancy, the thought of a central point of failure was too scary.

We continue to offer both traditional server arrangements, as well as, subscription based, cloud style contracts for an on premise server. We include remote desktop services (terminal server) as required.  We have added a Disaster Recovery (DR) option where the entire environment may be brought online separately using both a local device, and if needed a remote DR location.  This can be done at a savings of up to one half the price that I see hosted system providers charge and at the same time allows Premier to make a decent margin.

For my money, you get the best price/performance with an on premise server with remote desktop services.  Regarding terminal server, one 70 user firm  we support has 30-40 users who have worked in terminal services mode for the last 10+ years. Other smaller firms have their own subscription based server in their office, except for one firm which is totally virtual so we have had their server in our location for the last few years.  Most firms run TM, Billing, Office, Adobe, HotDocs and Quickbooks.

As reliable as the hosted service providers seem to be, my ideal system configuration calls for a separate Disaster Recovery (DR) infrastructure, as independent and separate as possible.  In other words, If Plan A fails do you really want your Plan B to be totally dependent on the same people and related resources that provided Plan A.   We are using standard Microsoft technology to support Plan A, which is familiar to by most local techs, if ever needed.

Our Plan B involves DR software and a local device and offsite option. This provides the means to virtualize the entire server and PC environment and operate locally if/when needed or operate off-site.  BDR also provides the means to test the failover plan, as often as desired, or try out new apps or the effect of a new upgrade.  In the age of ransomware, it seems DR is a level that is now highly desired and increasingly required by law firms.

We have investigated and know others who have worked with DinCliud, AirDesk, Legal Anywhere, Uptime Systems and Abacus Cloud, and with all of the above, my questions to fellow consultants and law firms involved with online systems are:

‘Do you firms have a backup only or a true disaster recovery strategy’

‘Is it separate from the vendor’s primary infrastructure, i.e. an independent data center, run by separate staff?’

Does anyone offer the ability to ‘recover and run their hosted environment on a device at their firm?’

‘Compared to on premise, ‘Do your online system providers require special apps, extra steps or have slower performance especially when printing or scanning?’

‘How much does an extra GB cost from a hosted system provider?’

‘Do temporary staff require logins that cost just as much as a regular user? ‘

‘Do you have restrictions on Administrator level access?’

Any other unexpected plus or minus using your hosted system provider?

Earlier this week we had a quick but violent storm front that knocked out our power. A client server went unaffected due to the attached UPS, however, our own server  took a hit.

Let’s just say that our server had difficulties reviving itself.  Fortunately, we have our disaster recovery ‘Shadow Protect’ configured and this allowed us to quickly restore a very recent server image.  If we needed, we could have restored a virtual image of our server to ‘dis-similar hardware’and run on the virtualized system.  This may even be on a cloud based  system. You can not do that with a basic back-up even if you have a Windows Server  image (that requires similar hardware).

The lesson to be learned is this, backups are not the same as true disaster recovery style virtualized server images.  If, in the event of a fire, theft, flood, storm, plague, or some other act of God, your firm would suffer if it required significant length of time for your server environment to be re-created and then have programs re-installed and then files restored then you should investigate true Disaster Recovery.

Management by Crisis:  Yesterday, I received an email with a subject “I need You”
We all can recall the famous crisis situations when we read:
“Houston, we have a problem” or  “I think we’re going to need a bigger boat”
So today’s Latin Lesson is: ‘praemonitus, praemunitus’  Forwarned is Forarmed

Case in Point:
The email with the a subject “I need You” involved a rather large large law office that we hadn’t heard from for quite some time… seems their server had run out of system capacity.
An ounce of prevention, (about an hour or two of an experts time) would have precluded the entire issue. The good news is 24 hourslater the firm now has 100GB of free space that they did not have yesterday. They also have a new configuration that will preclude that particular issue.

In every area of specialization there are many simple solutions available provided you are dealing with an experienced specialist. That is why lawyers offer annual retainer or maintenance programs for their clients and that is why no law firm should go along in a DIY fashion. You need a well defined protocol – a structured relationship with a specialist.

If you don’t have a personal relationship with an expert in any given critical area of your practice you are going to have a problem, and you may need a bigger boat.




A Time Matters question about Mobility vs Synching:

Question: “can you enlighten me on the TM mobility as to the storage of the data.  Is our data stored in a “cloud” and we access it on the TM mobility website?  If so, how often is the data backed up?  I am trying to make sure that we can still have access to the data even if the server were to go down or we would lose power in the office. ”

TM Mobility
works as follows, when you login you are authenticating via the cloud (Microsoft Azure I believe, on dedicated Lexis servers) and then you are passed thru to your own Time Matters (SQL database).   So your access to data is dependent on your server and the TM database  being available.

The synch is different. For example, if you synch Time Matters with Microsoft’s Exchange server (we do this routinely using the Exchange component of Microsoft Office 365)  then if your server were down, you would still have web access to email, calendar and contacts.  We also routinely backup documents using an offsite cloud service, which means documents could be accessed as well.

Case in Point:
If you lose your smart phone 

– TM Mobility means you haven’t lost control of all your contacts and calendar.
– TM/Exchange Synch – you may have lost control of all your contacts and calendar.

If you lose your server:
There are strategies for assuring a very high degree of redundancy and for enabling a fast recovery both on-site and off-site.  An on-site server image backup is good to have and easy to set-up. An off-site backup, with a plan for firing up a physical or virtual server is also a well proven strategy.  Bottom line is there are different options and levels of  redundancy, backup and disaster recovery.

We’ll promise not to represent ourselves in court or prepare our own estate planning documents  if you, our lawyer friends, reach out to us for guidance on technical issues like those above.  Let us know if you need more detail, we are here to help.