Server or Cloud Services for a Law Firm

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Server or Cloud Services for a Law Firm

Postposted on Mon Oct 15, 2012 4:23 pm

Here is an interesting question that I was asked.

Which is better for a law firm? The cloud or a server?

It would be a small firm with only two people in it, and if it wasn't a law firm, I would recommend they go with some hosted services. However, I haven't worked with lawyers, so I'm not familiar with the unique IT requirements of their field.

There isn't any money involved with the question. My brother-in-law just asked me for advice, and the question really piqued my interest in regards to regulations and due diligence needed.
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Re: Server or Cloud Services for a Law Firm

Postposted on Mon Oct 15, 2012 4:51 pm

Flatland_Spider wrote:Here is an interesting question that I was asked.

Which is better for a law firm? The cloud or a server?

It would be a small firm with only two people in it, and if it wasn't a law firm, I would recommend they go with some hosted services. However, I haven't worked with lawyers, so I'm not familiar with the unique IT requirements of their field.

There isn't any money involved with the question. My brother-in-law just asked me for advice, and the question really piqued my interest in regards to regulations and due diligence needed.



I too work at a small law firm of 15 attorneys. We use fileengine (http://www.fileengine.com/), which is basically a turn-key Linux box with a SAMBA server solution. There is basically zero administration: you plug the box into your network, and hook up to it by mounting the shares on your Windows desktops. The neat part about the fileengine is that it is automatically backed up every day to removable hard drives and also to an off-site server. So, on a day-to-day basis you are using an in-house box on your LAN that continues to operate even if your external Internet goes down and is generally faster than interacting with the cloud directly. If things really go bad (fire/flood/etc) your data is still preserved for offsite retrieval.
Last edited by chuckula on Mon Oct 15, 2012 6:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Server or Cloud Services for a Law Firm

Postposted on Mon Oct 15, 2012 5:29 pm

Not knowing the rules/regulations that they might be under, I would guess that a server would be better just from the data security aspect (i.e. who knows how safe your data is in the cloud). I do believe that there is a legal requirement for archiving of records for a while but that might depend on the type of lawyer/cases that they deal with.
I would say that in general, for a company that small, it might be better for them to do a hosted/cloud solution just for the tech support aspect.

Note, I am basing my guess on legal/security issues that have come up on various projects I've been part of with my company (I work as a server admin). Generally I would guess that legal/financial companies tend to have much stricter regulations to deal with that may dictate if cloud/hosted services as an option.
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Re: Server or Cloud Services for a Law Firm

Postposted on Mon Oct 15, 2012 5:48 pm

From what Ned pops in and says from time to time, it seems like many firms are only conscious of their safety requirements to a degree limited by their tech savvy. "Oh, you mean that doesn't meet the security standard? Who knew?" He's working with banks, and the picture could be different for attorneys, but I imagine it's much the same-- especially with really small orgs.

heyal256 wrote:Generally I would guess that legal/financial companies tend to have much stricter regulations to deal with that may dictate if cloud/hosted services as an option.

Add healthcare organizations to that list, what with HIPAA and all.
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Re: Server or Cloud Services for a Law Firm

Postposted on Mon Oct 15, 2012 6:06 pm

Law firms and their individual lawyers are under no Federal or State regulations. All regulation comes from their State Bar Association and the Canons of Legal Ethics.
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Re: Server or Cloud Services for a Law Firm

Postposted on Tue Oct 16, 2012 1:43 pm

Awesome, thanks! That is what I was looking for.

chuckula wrote:I too work at a small law firm of 15 attorneys. We use fileengine (http://www.fileengine.com/), which is basically a turn-key Linux box with a SAMBA server solution. There is basically zero administration: you plug the box into your network, and hook up to it by mounting the shares on your Windows desktops. The neat part about the fileengine is that it is automatically backed up every day to removable hard drives and also to an off-site server. So, on a day-to-day basis you are using an in-house box on your LAN that continues to operate even if your external Internet goes down and is generally faster than interacting with the cloud directly. If things really go bad (fire/flood/etc) your data is still preserved for offsite retrieval.


That's pretty neat. :) Is there any version control built in?

I was looking at NetDocuments (http://www.netdocuments.com/) as collaboration/version control solution.

heyal256 wrote: I do believe that there is a legal requirement for archiving of records for a while but that might depend on the type of lawyer/cases that they deal with.
Note, I am basing my guess on legal/security issues that have come up on various projects I've been part of with my company (I work as a server admin).


I'm in the same boat. I'm in charge of IT for a SMB that deals with sensitive data, and I've only had tangent dealing with lawyers.

Archiving is probably going to be a big issue they will have to address.

I'm thinking Spideroak for backups, which oddly enough I just evaluated for my job. Jungle Disk could be another backup service, but they don't trumpet security the way Spideroak does. Jungle Disk is secure enough for my cat pic collection, but I'm not sure about a law firm.

I'll probably suggest they get VPNs as well, to deal with wifi hotspots. Tunnelr (https://www.tunnelr.com) or PrivateInternetAccess (https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/p ... t-support/).
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Re: Server or Cloud Services for a Law Firm

Postposted on Tue Oct 16, 2012 6:08 pm

Flatland_Spider wrote:Awesome, thanks! That is what I was looking for.

That's pretty neat. :) Is there any version control built in?

I'll probably suggest they get VPNs as well, to deal with wifi hotspots. Tunnelr (https://www.tunnelr.com) or PrivateInternetAccess (https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/p ... t-support/).


The filesafe by itself is just a file server + domain controller for windows boxes on a small network. It is designed to be as dead simple to use as possible for non-technical users, so unfortunately it doesn't offer build-in VCS. If your attorneys can dedicate an old PC to act as a server, they could implement a VCS setup in-house and store the data on the filesafe for backups. Another thing that we use the filesafe for is storing the Quickbooks data for nightly backups.. gotta keep those accounting records safe.

As for VPNs, I highly recommend openvpn (http://openvpn.net/index.php/open-source.html). I run the open-source version on an old notebook with a Linux install and it has clients that work with Windows/Mac/Linux. There is commercial support available too. From home I can just run the VPN, mount the network shares on the Filesafe, and get to work.
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Re: Server or Cloud Services for a Law Firm

Postposted on Wed Oct 17, 2012 7:59 am

That's too bad it doesn't offer built-in VCS. I would think they would want to have it automatically create a copy of an updated file, especially since it is for non-technical users. Kind of like a self-hosted version of Dropbox.

I was thinking Sparkleshare or OwnCloud if they were going to use a server.

OpenVPN is nice. At work, I have a OpenVPN AS server. There are somethings I would like it to do, but it working across all of out platforms more then makes up for the missing features.
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Re: Server or Cloud Services for a Law Firm

Postposted on Wed Oct 17, 2012 8:45 am

If they need access from anywhere (and they probably will if there are only two of them) you could have a look at owncloud. It supports versioning and has mobile, web, and desktop access.
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Re: Server or Cloud Services for a Law Firm

Postposted on Wed Oct 17, 2012 11:56 am

OwnCloud is on the list of software to recommend. It's also on the list of software that I need to check out for my real job.
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