Fire at Buffalo firm proves value of digital storage
Last week, a fire broke out in a high rise building in downtown Buffalo. The fire originated on the 15th floor of the building where a law firm was located. Unfortunately for the law firm, the fire and the subsequent efforts of the firefighters to extinguish it caused a sequence of events that resulted in every lawyer’s nightmare: the disclosure of confidential files.
As reported in a WIVB.com article about the incident, the windows to the building were blown out, causing confidential client documents to rain onto the city street below: “According to the Buffalo fire commissioner, a slew of legal files, some of which may contain private information, are flying around the streets of Buffalo after a fire broke out on the 15th floor of Main Place Tower in Buffalo … The documents are all old case files from closed cases, but could contain sensitive information many customers of (the law firm) might not want prying eyes to see.”
All of this could have been prevented if this particular firm had gone paperless. Had all of their client files been converted to digital documents and stored in the cloud on servers located offsite, the end result would have been simply damaged equipment, but not the release of confidential client files onto the streets of downtown Buffalo.
That’s the beauty of the offsite storage of digital documents: Your law firm’s data is housed in a secure cloud environment and protected from onsite physical damage. In fact, that’s one of the biggest benefits of cloud storage; it provides one of the best forms of disaster backup available.
Specifically, it is the design of the newly built, cutting edge, cloud computing data centers that makes all the difference. Storing your firm’s data in the cloud ensures that even in the face of disaster, built-in redundant data backup — where data is regularly backed up to multiple servers located in different geographical regions — will save the day.
The reason this is such a selling point for cloud computing is because it’s impossible to predict when you might lose access to your office, whether because of a natural disaster or otherwise.
For example, a few years ago I spoke on a panel about cloud computing for the New York State Bar Association and one of my co-panelists was a NYC lawyer who switched his firm over to cloud computing after losing access to the servers housed in his law firm’s office, which was located in the Empire State Building. He explained that building management advised tenants on a Friday that power would be out all weekend for scheduled maintenance. That meant that he was unable to remotely access his firm’s data for the entire weekend. Shortly after that happened, he moved his firm’s data to the cloud and hasn’t looked back.
Now, his law firm, just like other businesses who store their data in the cloud, has a built-in disaster plan in effect. If the Buffalo law firm had taken similar steps to ensure the security and safety of their client files, they wouldn’t be in the unfortunate position they found themselves in last week.
So learn from that firm’s mistakes. Research the technology options available and then carefully take steps to move your firm to a paperless environment, thus enhancing the security, flexibility and mobility of your firm. By doing so you’ll make it easier than ever to preserve and access your firm’s securely stored data, no matter what the circumstances – even in the face of a fire or other disaster.
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.