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In the wake of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, many law firms have felt the need to come to grips with the grisly subject of disaster recovery. In the past, law firms have avoided this topic, deeming it unnecessary or too costly. For example, in the early 1990s a major law firm in downtown Manhattan had to close shop for nearly a week as a result of a power outage in lower Manhattan. This firm had rejected installing uninterruptible power supplies for its mainframe computers because of the cost. Disaster recovery plans fall into the same overall category as various kinds of insurance: You have it because you can’t afford not to. Other similarities also exist. Like an insurance plan, if you pay more money you get higher liability coverage (more thorough recovery) as well as a lower deductible (lower out-of-pocket costs). There is no reason why your firm should not perform the same analysis for disaster recovery that it does when purchasing any other type of insurance, be it car, malpractice, key man, or business interruption insurance. The main difference between the two, however, is that disaster recovery does not depend on how “likely” something is to happen. If it happens, it could put you out of business. PINPOINTING YOUR COMFORT ZONE You need to create a plan prioritizing what to do if disaster strikes. What operations need to be restored first? For example, it is probably more important to continue to get documents out than focus on restoring your time-billing software. How do you deal with the loss of information concerning court/calendar dates? As a preliminary step, you might consider establishing relationships with various vendors, computer rental companies, and disaster recovery specialists. Think of it as having an attorney on retainer in case of need. When planning the technology portion of your disaster recovery plan, think about how much of a “deductible” you can afford — i.e., the amount of data you’re willing to reconstruct, and the length of time your firm can remain inoperable. Banks, for example, cannot afford to “reconstruct” any data and their backup systems reflect this. However, for a small law firm, the price of being able to recover all your data at any given point in time may be prohibitively expensive. In that case, you need to pinpoint your comfort zone. Reconstructing two to three days of data would be onerous but not prohibitive, while two to three weeks would probably be unacceptable. ELECTRONIC DISASTERS The most common type of disaster — a server crash of some sort — is also the easiest one to safeguard against. A server crash has a very high likelihood of happening within a five to 10 year period and it can be either physical (the server dies) or inflicted from the outside (by a virus or disgruntled employee). Your goal should any of these events occur lies in recovering your data as quickly as possible. The best way to achieve this goal is with a tape backup, but several caveats exist, each of which is discussed below. � You need to test your backup equipment and software regularly to make sure it’s really backing up. You can do this by copying the files from some random directory to somewhere else and then restoring that directory. If you can restore the random directory, your backup equipment and software works. � Many older backup systems do not back up open files. Most database programs (such as e-mail or case management programs) keep their databases open all the time. If your backup software does not back up your open database programs, your backups will be worthless. Determine whether your programs can be “suspended” during a tape backup (as Worldox document management program can) or can automatically generate their own backups during the day (as Amicus Attorney case management program can) so that even if the main database is not backed up at 2 a.m., the program is backed up at 6 p.m. Given the current state of backup equipment, there is no reason to perform incremental backups; full backups are the way to go. (And FYI — CD backups are totally inadequate.) � Tape backup drives and software become obsolete as quickly as other hardware and software in the computer industry. Therefore, even if you have a good tape, you may not be able to read it if your three-year-old tape drive/PC dies, and nobody makes that model anymore. Yes, companies that specialize in recovering obsolete tapes or damaged hard drives exist, but they are very expensive. Your best solution is to buy a duplicate PC/server with duplicate tape backup and software, to be located outside the office. For a small office this could cost you as little as $2,000-$3,000 at today’s prices. With an off-site spare, you will be able restore your information in the event of a disaster. PHYSICAL/NATURAL DISASTERS How do you handle a physical disaster (fire, flood, terrorism, etc.) that renders your office unusable and off limits? � Arrange for some form of off-site storage for your backup tapes (in addition to the spare tape drive). A fire safe is not adequate; while it may protect your tapes for an extra 15 minutes in the event of a fire, they will still melt. Off-site storage does not need to be high-tech. For example, assigning someone to take a backup tape home every week provides off-site storage at no cost. � Smaller firms often maintain a “convenience office” at a different location or in a different part of the state. Frequently, they use such offices for meeting clients. However, you might consider installing a “backup PC,” loaded with all the standard firm software, at this location (including appropriate security precautions such as boot passwords). � Most attorneys have some sort of computer space at home. Consider putting your backup PC in a den or spare bedroom and expanding your overall setup so that you have a phone line (for a modem) and perhaps a better printer. In short, consider making a mini-office at home. In the event of catastrophe, you could either work from there or move the entire setup to a new space. Independent of the tape backup, you should also keep (and periodically update) copies of key items such as the firm’s rolodex on this computer. ADDITIONAL DISASTER RECOVERY TIPS At small firms, it may not be practical for you to scan everything or use large off-site storage facilities. However, you should plan to store copies of essential business documents: leases, insurance policies, various licenses, etc. off site. You may want to keep items like these in a bank safety deposit box. In addition, you should make copies of all your key software CDs (together with the serial numbers/license numbers and similar information), and keep them off site. You will need a CD writer, which are not only inexpensive, but often ship with new PCs. You may want to buy a scanner for critical documents. Recovery of damaged paper can be impossible or extremely expensive (and lies beyond the scope of this article). Another prudent step you should take is setting up a file containing printouts of some of the online help that is currently prominent in the wake of the World Trade Center disaster. None of this information will fit your future situation exactly, but virtually all of it will contain some useful points written by people who have survived major disasters or who specialize in this field. The Tennessee Bar Association has created a helpful site www.tba.org/tnbarms/disaster.html. LawNet, an association of large law firms, has also done a nice job www.peertopeer.org. Another good Web site, Disaster Recovery World www.disasterrecoveryworld.com, focuses on general business scenarios and examines dozens of disaster-related issues. CONCLUSION Small and medium law firms must assess their comfort zone in terms of disaster recovery planning and the budget required to implement those needs. Guaranteeing the ability to function within a matter of days of a major disaster is neither technologically overwhelming nor inordinately expensive. It is merely a matter of taking some basic precautions and keeping your recovery systems and documentation up to date as a basic element of doing business. ABOUT THE AUTHOR John Heckman is the principal of Heckman Consulting and has been advising law firms concerning technology issues for over 15 years. He is certified in many programs used in small and medium size law firms, including Worldox document management program and case management programs such as Amicus Attorney and Time Matters. You can reach him via e-mail ([email protected]) or telephone (860-395-0881). ABOUT THE TECHNOLAWYER COMMUNITY This article originated in The TechnoLawyer Community, a free online community in which legal professionals share information about business and technology issues, products, and services, often developing valuable business relationships in the process. To join The TechnoLawyer Community, visit the following Web site: www.technolawyer.com.

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