Law firms of all sizes require solid and stable technology services that power their day to day operations, but that can be challenging for midsized law firms that lack the massive global resources, technical expertise, and financial capital of the world’s largest firms. An unexpected outage that causes disruption of any kind within the IT ecosystem – whether it be a major weather event, a cybercrime incident or something as simple as a hardware failure – can paralyze a midsize law firm and cause disastrous financial impacts, not to mention the damage it likely will cause to the firm’s reputation and client trust.
Even so, less than half of law firms are prepared when it comes to planning for a disaster or outage. Just four out of 10 law firms have a comprehensive disaster recovery (DR) plan in place, according to the ABA Legal Technology Survey Report.
Many of the law firms that have not yet invested in the implementation of a DR plan tell us they understand the importance of preparing, but these efforts are often derailed or take a backseat to other firm initiatives and day to day operations. Other firms that have a comprehensive DR plan in place admit they have struggled to maintain the regular testing protocols that are crucial to keeping the plan up to date and prepared for emerging security threats.
Fortunately, a new model is now a viable and attractive DR planning option for law firms. The concept is known as Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) and it is as simple as it sounds: law firms offload their DR needs to an outside expert service provider. The DRaaS partner provides a cloud-based platform coupled with a data protection service model and a testing/validation protocol designed to protect law firm applications and data from disaster-related disruption. This model provides firms with a system backup that allows for business continuity in the event of an IT failure. It is an especially attractive option for midsize law firms that can be dealt a serious financial blow in the event of an unexpected technology infrastructure failure.
Here are five ways that midsized law firms benefit from choosing the DRaaS model for disaster recovery planning:
1. Reduced cost
Law firms that have tried to do DR planning on their own have discovered it can be a very costly endeavor. Firms must make significant capital investments to stand up a secondary data center; obtain replication software licenses; purchase or lease servers; storage and network equipment; and incur monthly expenses for power, cooling and other infrastructure charges. The DRaaS model eliminates those operational expenses and replaces them with a predictable service fee from an outside provider that specializes in delivering those services for law firms.
2. Increased operational efficiency
Business continuity planning is a significant operational commitment for a law firm IT department to undertake, especially if it is reviewed and modified on a regular basis. This can be an ongoing distraction from the team’s pressing day-to-day responsibilities as well as their strategic initiatives designed to help advance the firm’s practices. The DRaaS model can drive efficiency gains for a law firm by providing on-demand access to a team of recovery experts who are responsible for the spectrum of DR services needed to protect the firm in the event of a major business disruption. This frees up the firm’s IT professionals to focus on other key projects and operational duties.
3. Improved data security
Law firms continue to be an attractive target for cybercrime, with 26% of law firms reporting to the ABA in 2019 that they have suffered a data breach. As a result, law firm spending on cybersecurity continues to soar: three in four law firms planned to increase their spending on cybersecurity over the next 12 months and none of them planned to decrease spending, according to a 2019 survey by Robert Half Legal. With the DRaaS model, an outside service provider can ease a firm’s burden by utilizing comprehensive measures to encrypt data and providing regular monitoring of the law firm’s environment for any indications of unauthorized access. In many cases, this level of data security surpasses the protocols the law firm IT team might have in place on their own.
4. Simplified IT infrastructure requirements
Law firms that attempt to establish their own DR plan face the intimidating challenge of making sure that all of their systems are redundant (duplicated elsewhere) and interoperable (they all work together). This is a complex undertaking that is costly and time-consuming as it requires the management of upgrade requirements, maintenance contracts and IT infrastructure deployment (e.g., servers, networks, storage systems, etc.). The DRaaS model greatly simplifies things because a DRaaS solution can be deployed within a matter of hours and is both hardware and software agnostic, so it can easily be spun up with minimal time involvement from the law firm’s IT team.
5. Enhanced client confidence
Law firms are in the business of providing legal services to clients, not technology services, and clients are counting on their outside counsel to be available to them whenever they are needed. A law firm that suffers a prolonged business disruption that renders lawyers unable to access their clients’ data — and therefore limits their ability to provide counsel — or locks them out of their email system will suffer a tremendous erosion of client confidence. The DRaaS model supports a law firm’s client relations by helping the firm recover quickly from a disaster and minimize the amount of time that the lawyers are prohibited from doing their jobs as trusted counselors.
There are a number of additional benefits to the DRaaS model that may come as welcome surprises to law firm management teams. For example, underwriters at cyber insurance carriers may look favorably upon a firm that partners with an expert service provider for comprehensive DR support. Moreover, a DRaaS vendor may be able to serve as a third-party source for proof of the firm’s compliance with DR requirements — something that is sought by a growing number of clients.
When disaster strikes, there is no substitute for good DR planning; every hour that a law firm’s operations are down can represent serious losses in revenue and client confidence. One way to ensure that DR support is in place right away is to enlist the assistance of outside experts who understand midsized law firms and can provide DRaaS.