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The Internet Revolution-Part 3

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This week's Daily Record column is entitled "The Internet Revolution--Part 3."

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

*****

The Internet Revolution-Part 3

(This is part 3 of a series of articles in which I discuss the technologies and the historical context that led to the mass adoption of cloud computing. In the first article, our exploration began in 1995. Last week, in Part 2 of this series, we learned about how the technology changed, making the Internet revolution, and life as we now know it, possible. This week, we’ll examine how the rapid increase in the speed of broadband access paved the way for cloud computing).

As we discussed last week, the speed of broadband access—one of the most important factors behind the rise of the Internet--has increased dramatically in recent years. Increased Internet bandwidth and speed has effectively erased the barriers that prevented us from fully realizing the potential of networked computers and the rapid exchange of data via the Internet. In other words, we’ve entered the next stage of the Internet and cloud computing is a finally a feasible alternative for businesses.

In his book, “The Big Switch: Rewiring the World from Edison to Google” Nicholas Carr compares cloud computing to the electrical grid and suggest that just as businesses that once produced electricity in-house later outsourced electrical production to utility companies, so too will businesses ultimately outsource computing to the cloud. 

Carr explains this option has only become a possibility in recent years, in large part due to faster Internet connections that are becoming increasingly affordable:

The network barrier has, in just the last few years, begun to collapse. Thanks to all the fiber-optic cable laid by communications companies during the dot.com boom—enough, according to one estimate, to circle the globe more than 11,000 times—Internet bandwidth has become abundant and abundantly cheap…Now that data can stream through the Internet at the speed of light, the full power of computers can finally be delivered to users from afar.

Without this rapid increase in available Internet bandwidth, combined with the ever-increasing processing power and reduced costs for bandwidth and data storage, cloud computing and the advantages it offers businesses would not now be possible.

The opening of the Internet floodgates that we’re now seeing is occurring, in large part, due to the operation of Moore’s Law.  Moore’s Law, an important and pivotal theory, predicts that every two years the price of a unit of computer processing power will be reduced by half.

In “Free: The Future of a Radical Price,” Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired magazine, describes the effect of Moore’s Law, in combination with other “flattening” factors, upon Internet-based technologies:

Just as Moore’s Law dictates that a unit of computer processing power halves in price every two years, the price of bandwidth and storage is dropping even faster. What the Internet does is combine all three, compounding the price declines with a triple play of technology: processors, bandwidth and storage.

In other words, we’re in the midst of a seismic shift. This conclusion is, I think, indisputable. The changes wrought by the Internet are broad and far reaching, affecting every aspect of our lives, from how we conduct business to how we connect and communicate with friends and family, how we obtain information, how we shop, and how we learn.  This is an important shift—some might say it’s revolutionary.

I would argue that this shift is on par with other fairly recent and significant events that fundamentally altered our culture, including the invention of the automobile, the creation of the US highway system, and the wide-scale adoption of air conditioning. Each of these events radically altered the landscape of our country, our cities, and our lives. At this point, there’s no turning back—these changes are here to stay and our lives will never be the same.

Cloud computing promises to have this same effect upon our day-to-day lives and will no doubt be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years, as we’ll discuss next week, when we conclude this series by discussing another theory, Grove’s Law. We’ll then examine how recent events have made the large-scale availability of cloud computing a reality, effectively ushering in a new age of computing.

Nicole Black is of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester. She co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise, and is currently writing a book about cloud computing for lawyers that will be published by the ABA in early 2011. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at nblack@nicoleblackesq.com.

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The Internet Revolution-Part 2

Drlogo11

This week's Daily Record column is entitled "The Internet Revolution--Part 2."

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

*****

The Internet Revolution-Part 2

(Over the next month, I plan to discuss the technologies and the historical context that led to the mass adoption of cloud computing. Last week, our exploration began in 1995. This week, in Part 2 of this series, we’ll learn about how the technology changed, making the Internet revolution, and life as we now know it, possible).

The Internet was a clunky beast back in 1995. By today’s standards, the dial-up connections were horribly unreliable and were slower than molasses.  Anyone who had access to the Internet at the time no doubt recalls staring at a blank screen for minutes at a time while listening to the familiar, raucous sound of the dial-up modem attempting to connect to the network.

Connection speeds and data transfers via the Internet were painfully slow because today’s technological groundwork for the information highway had not yet been laid. But since that time, Internet-based technologies have drastically changed our world. From 1995 until now, a number of important events occurred that made the Internet as we now know it possible. And, with these changes came the increased Internet and processing speeds that make cloud-based computing a feasible alternative.

However, it wasn’t always this way. It was in1995 that things began to change, in part because the commercial possibilities of the Web became apparent.  As with many other phenomena, commercialization was one of the driving forces behind change, in this case, the reorganization of the Internet. 

As Nicolas Carr notes in “The Big Switch: Rewiring the World from Edison to Google,” 1995 was a turning point in this regard: 

At the end of 1993, less than 5 percent of sites were in the .com domain…(A)s the profit-making potential of the new medium became clear, businesses rushed in and commercial sites quickly came to dominate the network. By the end of 1995, half of all sites bore .com addresses, and by mid-1996 commercial sites represented nearly 70 percent of the total.

The next 5 years brought forth remarkable changes, due in large part to the forces behind the dot.com boom. In his ground-breaking work, “The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century,” Thomas Friedman posits that the tipping point occurred sometime around the year 2000, when 10 “flattening” forces converged. According to Friedman, the interaction of these 10 forces—the fall of the Berlin Wall, the rise of the PC, Netscape, work flow, outsourcing, offshoring, uploading, insourcing, supply chaining, in-forming (Internet search), and the Steroids (digital, mobile, personal and virtual)—resulted in a new world order, moving us from Globalization 2.0 to 3.0.

In his book, Friedman explains this how this transition occurred horizontally, rather than vertically :

 Globalization 2.0 was really the era of mainframe computing, which was very vertical—command-and-control oriented, with companies and their individual departments tending to be organized in vertical silos. Globalization 3.0, which is built around the convergence of the ten flatteners, and particularly the combination of the PC, the microprocessor, the Internet, and fiber optics, flipped the playing field from largely top-down to more side to side. And this naturally fostered and demanded new business practices, which were less about command and control and more about connecting and collaborating horizontally.”

In other words, it’s a whole new ball game now that we’ve now entered Globalization 3.0. The rapid convergence of the ten flatteners has changed the way that we do business and there’s no turning back.  The activities that we engage in every day using the Internet would not be possible but for the widespread availability of broadband access.

Next week, we’ll continue to explore the many forces and technological changes behind this seismic shift.

Nicole Black is of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester. She co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise, and is currently writing a book about cloud computing for lawyers that will be published by the ABA in early 2011. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at nblack@nicoleblackesq.com.

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The Internet Revolution--Part 1

Drlogo11

This week's Daily Record column is entitled "The Internet Revolution--Part 1."

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

*****

The Internet Revolution--Part 1

(Over the next month, I plan to discuss the technologies and the historical context that lead to the mass adoption of cloud computing. This week, our exploration begins in 1995).

The Internet has been the most fundamental change during my lifetime and for hundreds of years. Someone the other day said, "It's the biggest thing since Gutenberg," and then someone else said "No, it's the biggest thing since the invention of writing."

     --Rupert Murdoch (2005)

On February 27, 1995, Newsweek magazine published an article written by Clifford Stoll entitled “The Internet? Bah! Hype Alert: Why cyberspace isn’t, and will never be, nirvana."  In the article, Stoll, an astronomer and well known author of the book “Silicon Snake Oil—Second Thoughts on the Information Highway,” infamously predicted that many of the things made possible by the Internet that we now take for granted would never become a reality.

In the article—which has been repeatedly passed around the Internet and mocked incessantly—Stoll proclaims that “Internet hucksters,” “computer pundits” and “visionaries” are devoid of “all common sense.” Stoll goes on to decry their vision of the future, calling it “baloney.” He mocks their claims that the Internet will make possible a world in which, among other things, people telecommute, purchase and read books online, book airline tickets and restaurant reservations via the Internet, interact in virtual worlds and engage in online commerce. 

Stoll decries the hype and lambastes those who claim that the Internet will drastically change the world in which we live:

Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems…Baloney. Do our computer pundits lack all common sense? The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper…Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we'll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Internet. Uh, sure…Then there's cyberbusiness. We're promised instant catalog shopping—just point and click for great deals. We'll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts…Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over the Internet—which there isn't—the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople…

As we now know, from our comfortable vantage point 16 years later, Stoll couldn’t have been more wrong. The vast majority of the predictions that he scoffed at have now come true. In little more than a decade, the Internet has literally transformed our lives, from how we conduct business to the ways in which we interact and connect with family and friends.

The Internet has made it possible for us to shop online for virtually anything we can imagine. Workers telecommute. We use Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) to make free international phone calls and conference calls. We hold online video meetings and attend online classes.

The Internet has become a repository for all types of information. Indeed, for many, the Internet is our primary source of information, from news, current events, encyclopedic knowledge, and scholarly articles. Through the Internet, we connect to our social networks, communicate with our friends and family, and network with business associates. Virtual communities are now a reality as are multimedia classrooms and interactive libraries.

The Internet is entrenched in our day-to-day activities and is an integral part of our lives on so many levels.  The bottom line: Stoll was an outspoken—and very mistaken—critic of those who dared to dream of the possibilities of the Internet. He was the original Internet curmudgeon and bastion of old school ways, just like many lawyers today. Like Stoll, rather than accepting and embracing change, a good portion of the legal profession remains firmly entrenched in the ways of decades past, staunchly resisting the inevitable changes ushered in by technology. Stoll, however, unlike lawyers of the 21st century, had an arguable excuse for his lack of vision: the technology hadn’t yet evolved.

Next week, in Part 2 of this series, we’ll learn about how the technology changed, making the Internet revolution, and life as we now know it, possible.

Nicole Black is of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester. She co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise, and is currently writing a book about cloud computing for lawyers that will be published by the ABA in early 2011. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at nblack@nicoleblackesq.com.

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North Carolina Bar’s Proposed Opinion Limits Lawyers’ Use of Cloud Computing

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This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Proposed NC bar opinion limits cloud computing."

A pdf of the article can be found here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.

*****

Proposed NC bar opinion limits cloud computing

Last May I discussed the North Carolina State Bar’s Proposed 2010 Formal Ethics Opinion 7, which was issued in response to a lawyer’s inquiry as to whether it was permissible for a firm to use Software as a Service (SaaS) products in its law practice.

After reading the opinion, I concluded that it provided a broadly framed, elastic standard that permitted individual attorneys to make careful choices about the technologies that best fit their individual practices. The opinion also included a very useful list of suggested questions that lawyers were advised to ask cloud computing vendors prior to using their products.

A few weeks ago, the Bar issued a revised opinion, Proposed 2011 Formal Ethics Opinion 6 (available online at http://www.ncbar.gov/ethics/propeth.asp), which replaced the Bar’s prior proposed opinion on this issue.

I am disappointed with the new opinion. It’s overly broad and far too rigid, serving to severely limit North Carolina lawyers’ ability to use cloud computing products in their practices.

The new proposed opinion answers this very broad question: “May a law firm use SaaS”?  Note that is inquiry does not address the type of information that a lawyer seeks to store in the cloud, but rather, lumps confidential and non-confidential data together. 

The Ethics Committee’s answer to this broadly framed question was “yes.” The Committee explained that “(A) law firm may use SaaS if reasonable care is taken to effectively minimize the risks to the disclosure of confidential information and to the security of client information and client files.”

However, the Committee then stated that in order to sufficiently exercise reasonable care when using any type of SaaS product, lawyers must take a number of steps.

First, lawyers must ensure that an agreement is in place with the vendor that ensures that the confidentiality of client data will be protected. Second, the vendor agreement must limit the geographical region in which the data will be stored. Third, lawyers must be able to retrieve their data in a readable format, on demand. Fourth, the lawyer’s employees must receive training on certain security issues such as strong password creation.

While I agree that all of these measures are important to take into consideration when choosing a cloud computing service, I object that the Committee made these steps mandatory. The Committee fails to recognize that the cloud computing needs of every law firm will differ greatly, as will each firm’s implementation considerations.

One problem with the Committee’s mandate is that it makes a number of potentially false assumptions in regard to lawyers’ use of cloud computing products. These assumptions include, but are not limited to, the following: that lawyers will store only confidential data in the cloud, that all lawyers’ employees will necessarily have access to data stored in the cloud, and that lawyers will not maintain local back ups of their data on their own servers or elsewhere. 

For example, some attorneys may choose to utilize the cloud for the storage of non-confidential data, including legal forms, administrative forms, redacted memos of law for future reference, and excerpts from legal research. Others may choose to choose to test the cloud computing waters by using cloud computing services for tasks that don’t require the input of confidential information, such as billing or time tracking.

For these lawyers, many of the mandatory requirements would be unnecessary and requiring them to implement these procedures is pointless and unnecessarily impedes their cloud computing choices.

Likewise, if lawyers maintain local back ups of their data, the ability to extract readable data on demand may be an unnecessary requirement. Similarly, law firms with local back ups may not be concerned with the very remote possibility that their data will be “held hostage” due to the operation of the European Union’s Data Protections laws.

The bottom line is that I disagree with the imposition of any mandatory requirements upon lawyers choosing to use cloud computing products. Instead, requiring lawyers to exercise reasonable care in choosing a provider and providing a list of security and privacy issues to take into consideration makes more sense. Doing so allows lawyers to choose a provider based upon their law firm’s needs and their unique situation. 

Here, the Committee’s most recent proposed opinion on cloud computing use in law firms establishes unnecessarily rigid standards that impede the ability of individual lawyers to determine the technologies that best fit their practice. Hopefully, the Committee will reconsider its position and will soon issue a revised opinion that offers more elastic standard for North Carolina lawyers.

Nicole Black is of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester. She co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise, and is currently writing a book about cloud computing for lawyers that will be published by the ABA in early 2011. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at nblack@nicoleblackesq.com.

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The status of my cloud computing for lawyers book

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People have been asking me when my book about cloud computing for lawyers, which will be published by the American Bar Association, will be out. So, I figured I'd provide an update on the status.

I'd hoped that it would be published by now, but, as was the case with the book that I co-authored with Carolyn Elefant, Social Media for Lawyers, nothing happens as quickly as you would hope when it comes to getting a book published!

The book is written and we're just tweaking it a bit--deleting a few things, adding others. Peer reviewers have provided their feedback and it's very close to the final draft.

I've also been reviewing proposed covers and have been working with the marketing division to create a marketing plan for the book.

I'm particularly excited about the foreward, which was written by a very well known, world renowned legal technologist--you'll have to wait until the book comes out to learn who it is. I was honored that he agreed to write the foreward and it's a great addition to this book.

So, hopefully, if all goes as planned, the book should be out by the middle of the summer, at the latest. I'm looking forward to it--I hope you are, too!

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Check it out--DroidLaw

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If you own an Android phone, check out Sui Generis' newest sponsor, DroidLaw.

As I explained in this recent Daily Record article, Droid Apps for Lawyers, DroidLaw is a free app that includes the full texts of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Evidence, Appellate Procedure, Criminal Procedure, and Bankruptcy Procedure. Each set of rules is provided in a format that permits searching, bookmarking, copying, sharing and note taking. Other databases, including individual state's laws and United Supreme Court opinions, are available for an additional fee.

DroidLaw is now compatible with Android tablets as well. If you have an Android device, it's an app worth exploring.