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Best Practices for Cloud Computing at Your Law Firm

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

With internet security breaches becoming commonplace, what is the forecast for cloud computing in the law?

A tornado, such as the 1.5 billion email hacks at Yahoo last year, should at least give lawyers pause to reconsider the best practices of cloud computing. Jennifer L. Ellis, of Lowenthal & Abrams, recently offered some thoughts at a continuing legal education program:

1. Plan for disasters and back up your data locally.

Cloud computing offers law firms the benefits of remote storage, but they also must address the fact that "cloud storage" actually means storage on someone else's computer. And just like a bank can be robbed, so can a remote server that stores information "in the cloud." Back up your data locally, too.

2. Do not use free email.

There is no expectation of privacy for your law firm or clients when using Yahoo, Gmail, or other free email services. Google, for example, scans all emails and actively removes illegal imagery. Yahoo, well, enough said.

3. Be careful with file sharing services.

Dropbox, for example, can be opened by other users who may obtain your password and your clients' data. A better option is Spideroak, says Ellis, which is used by Edward Snowden.

4. Never use public computers.

Libraries, law schools, and business outlets like FedEx offer computer time to the public. Don't use them to acquire law firm data or other password-protected websites. These computers will store your information and make it accessible to other people.

5. Implement security policies.

A law firm should have security policies for every type of technology at the office, including cellphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, servers, and Wi-Fi. The policies should also extend to home and remote users. Ultimately, it requires a "reasonable care" standard in protecting client information.

These rules are designed to help lawyers protect their own information and their clients' information, Ellis said, particularly in the cloud. Although law firms often adapt slowly to changes, including new technologies, information technology is pushing them into the future. They need to adapt because the cloud is already here.

"While many firms shy away from cloud computing, they also don't realize that their lawyers are already using cloud technologies if they are using Gmail, AOL, Comcast, Verizon or other online services for their personal email," she said.

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