Editor's Note: This is the first of 5 weekly posts regarding the importance of data backup for solo and small firms by veteran attorney Remy Luria, Esq.
Standard advice is to keep two daily incremental backup sets: one onsite and one offsite. I say think of all the Palsgraf v. LIRR-type mishaps that can happen to make those backup sets unavailable when needed. Then keep as many additional redundant backups in as many different media as you need to have a backup no matter what. Keep duplicate copies of your software with the offsite back up set, along with records of any updates or patches installed. Each partner in a small firm should keep a backup set offsite.
Warning: Will this be you?
A friend with a very large caseload and twenty-five years of data was infected by a virus. It took weeks before the virus appeared. All the data was corrupted by then, including weekly backups. The laboratory at Los Alamos could not extract any information. The office was closed for two weeks while they tried to restore what data they had on open cases from paper documents and bank statements. The data on the tens of thousands of closed cases was impossible to restore. Fifteen years later, it is still a trauma. Back in the mid-1990s, backups were more difficult and viruses less well known. The incremental backups we now have will restore almost all the data lost to a virus like this, but only if you use it.
Does anyone need to live through this personally to protect his or her career properly? Keep up to date on your security software and your backups. Do a periodic practice restore of your data.
Some things important to remember:
· You must back up every day because it is not a question of if you will lose your data, but when and how hard it will be to replace.
· If you think this is too much about backups, then ask anyone who lost data without a backup or your malpractice carrier. If you practice law, you must backup regularly.
· Even if you have your data backed up, you may still need to spend days buying a new computer, gathering your software, buying new software, reinstalling all of your software, re-entering all of your program data, recreating your email accounts and program settings, reloading all of your data, and finally hoping that your new programs will read the data created by earlier versions of that software.
· If you litigate, or have a busy client practice, you might not have this time. “My computer broke,” is no excuse in court.
· Data is fragile and can be difficult to restore.
Your hard drive operates in a violent, fast-moving world where it holds on with a delicate balance. It contains magnetically charged disks of metal spinning 10 million times per day. In that electrical storm is every document your office has ever created, your entire calendar, court dates, tickle dates, research, time records, billing notes, office and trust account financial data, email, telephone numbers, addresses, and everything else you or any member of your firm has ever entered into any computer in your office or downloaded from the Internet. While there could be hard copies of some of this information, it will be extremely difficult and very time-consuming to restore to full use. Each day of downtime will conservatively cost your firm $1,500 per day per attorney, technical support costs, and the malpractice and liability implications.
Your hard drive will eventually fail. Your software could breakdown or a virus permanently corrupt your data. You could overwrite a file, have a fire, flood, hurricane, or tsunami, or lose your computers to thieves or vandals. When this happens, you may pay a small fortune, waste time reconstructing data and software, and get to know your malpractice carrier.
Alternatively, you could completely and easily protect all of your data for less than the cost of a few hours of time and be ready to go in minutes after the disaster. Very few small offices completely protect their data. Some attorneys have no protection. You are just starting out. Do it right! Protect your data completely!
In case of a virus, your incremental backup can restore each corrupted file from the day before infection. You can also restore an old file in its original form if you accidentally modified or erased it.
Remy Luria first logged on to the DOD Internet and other remote computers from Cornell University in 1977, where he obtained his JD from the law school and was an editor on the Cornell International Law Journal. He studied international trade and tax law at the Europa Institute in The Netherlands before practicing law in New York City, New Jersey, and then Honolulu. He used three kinds of pre-DOS OS and computers without hard drives before getting an 8088 DOS PC. Mr. Luria has held many bar positions with the ABA, ABA-YLD, NYSBA, NJSBA, HSBA, CLLA, and ACA, was elected five times to the Nuuanu/Punchbowl Neighborhood Board, and has testified before the Hawaii State Legislature. He wrote the first Information Technology Chapter for the HSBA’s guide for lawyers opening their own office over 10 years ago and recently updated it. His areas of practice include international law, commercial law, bankruptcy, real estate, mortgages, and administrative law for foreign companies. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.