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Having recently “gone small” after a lifetime coddled in the warm embrace of large-firm practice, I’m now in a two-partner firm in rural New Hampshire � and I’m the defacto I.T. director of our firm. Every I.T. director must ponder worst-case scenarios, and no responsible firm is without a disaster recovery plan. So what kind of catastrophe might I face? I work from a home office. That subjects me to a range of possible traumas: fire, flood, storm, tornado, earthquake, volcano � well, volcano might be a bit unlikely. But any of these scenarios could have the same end result: My office lies utterly destroyed. How would I continue? If I’ve taken these steps in my everyday practice, I am confident I will be able to reconstruct my practice quickly and efficiently, no matter how much mud and debris I must clean up. � Backup. The first step to any plan is backups. Backups equal peace of mind. I conduct daily, full (not sequential) backups, to portable Maxtor 120 GB hard drives stored in two different offsite locations. Our primary office is in Keene, in southwestern New Hampshire, where my partner, Lawrence Graves, practices. My office is in rural Warner, in central New Hampshire. We each back up every day and take the backup drives to our homes (my office is 300 feet from my home). So if we face any sort of disaster short of an incident that wipes out the entire state, we’re covered. If anything happens, the worst-case scenario is that I might lose a day’s work. I can use yesterday’s backup disk to get at my files. I back up only data files � programs I can always re-install. � Scanning. Everything � and I mean everything� is scanned. All my paper files have every document therein scanned and kept online in a repository. This means I can access them without having to look for a paper file. And I can access them remotely when I am out of the office. Right now I use a Hewlett Packard Office Jet 7100; at Keene, we use a Visioneer 9650. Every backup (I use six 120 GB hard drives) has a complete copy of everything in my practice as of the snapshot time. � Searching. I scan all documents to searchable Adobe PDF so I can even search my file, and I use an indexing software (X1, from www.pgp.com ). � Redundant equipment. I keep a spare computer, not connected to the network and normally unused except for overflow work, ready and available in case the main system crashes or comes under attack. � Labor pains. One of the advantages of being in a two-person firm is that I don’t have to worry about attacks from within from disgruntled employees. We have none. But if you do have staff, you should operate day-to-day with the tacit assumption that they could, inadvertently or intentionally, cause harm. No employee should have rights on any computer to install software. Be sure you have administrative access to all computers over your network and, from time to time, take a look at what’s on them. You don’t want a rogue Web site operating from your office. � Growth opportunities. Nor do I grant permissions to access materials except on a need-to-access basis. As I grow and add more attorneys, I will effectively isolate them in terms of access across the network. The way to do that is to use a location available to all so everyone can share documents, and to establish “permissions” protocol to access information in the document management system. For example, you can set your system to permit some people to add but not delete or amend documents, while others may be granted full rights. Yes, this is an administrative burden, but once it becomes second nature and habitual, it is easily maintained. At some level of growth, you may want to hire consultants. Be damned sure you understand what they propose and implement. In most cases, these simple steps will help you recover from most predictable disasters. They may not address a nuclear war scenario or invasion from space. But I suspect in such a scenario, we’ll all have larger issues on our minds than getting a patent appeal filed, and I am prepared to accept the consequences of being unprepared under these circumstances. Coolidge, a partner at Coolidge & Graves, of Warner, N.H., is a member of theLaw Technology News Editorial Advisory Board, a sister publication of theLaw Journal .

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