For any industry, disaster recovery is vital. But, the legal sector must ensure that they are prepared for every possible outcome.
The use of technology delivers huge improvements to processes, service outcomes, reliability and efficiency. But, it leaves firms reliant on that technology to carry on their day-to-day operations. If your IT system goes down, so can your entire operation.
Legal services have much more to gain from digital technology than most industries. But, that is only if transformation is undertaken diligently and with appropriate planning — a luxury not every law firm provides themselves.
This blog will outline why your law firm needs to take disaster recovery seriously and what steps you should take to accomplish this.
Does your company really need a disaster recovery/business continuity plan?
90% of businesses without a disaster recovery plan do not survive a major failure. The time sensitive and reputation driven nature of the legal industry puts law firms that ignore this vital aspect of IT investment at even greater risk.
As you integrate digital technology into more aspects of your day-to-day workflow processes, your ability to function as a business becomes dependent on access to that technology and network. You need contingency plans in place to prevent yourself from ending up adrift if your system fails. That means investing in disaster recovery and business continuity planning.
Even if your internal systems run flawlessly, you are still vulnerable to outside events like terrorism, cybercrime or a natural disaster. The fundamental reality is that the question is when, not if you will need a disaster recovery plan. The question that you need to ask yourself is not if you should invest in business continuity planning, it is what type of system will meet your needs and allow you to proceed with confidence. That is where we are going to start here.
Understanding the Terminology: Disaster Recovery vs. Business Continuity Planning
Disaster recovery simply references your ability to restore files and data in the event of a system failure. This means creating regularly updated restore points and duplicates on auxiliary systems. This is critical to making sure that you don’t lose information.
Business continuity planning goes one step further and creates a system that will allow you to carry on operations while your main system is being repaired. For businesses fully dependent on digital workflows, this is necessary to prevent downtime that can damage client relationships.
There is a lot that goes into proper business continuity planning. Like with cybersecurity, you need to both invest in the technical and people sides of the issues. Staff need to be trained on how to proceed in the event of failure and you need a technical solution that will actually deliver to your specifications. When designing a plan, there are four factors that you have to understand: failover, failback and RTO/RPO criteria.
- Failover is the process of transferring all applications and processes to a redundant IT system, generally in a secondary location. This allows you to continue operations while your main system is being repaired.
- Failback is the process of returning applications and processes to your original and restored system. It is critical that this process includes synchronising all data generated during failover.
- RTO (Restore Time Objective) references the amount of time it will take to reboot operations. This needs to align with the total downtime your business can tolerate and can only be guaranteed if coupled with an auxiliary system to which failover will occur.
- RPO (Restore Point Objective) sets guidelines for the maximum amount of time in which you might lose data — effectively, RPO is the update period for your backup system.
You have to determine the tolerances for delay and data loss for all of these factors. At least some portion of your business continuity solution should include replication to off-site infrastructure. For example, a backup drive in your Comms Room will be susceptible to many of the hazards that may have incapacitated your main system. Without some kind of off-site failover, you will likely be stuck waiting for repairs, unable to carry on with business in the meantime.
What technology should your company invest in?
It’s important to remember that what you want from any technology investment is an outcome. That could be a change in client interactions, team collaboration, the accuracy and speed of processes or a complete transformation in the day-to-day responsibilities of staff.
You should never invest in technology simply for the sake of the technology. Always think about how it is going to be used. This also includes investing in training or considering new hires or department restructuring — make sure the investment is adding value and fulfilling an outcome.
In addition to this, it’s important to ensure you are not overestimating your internal IT capabilities. Partnering with managed IT services can help you access technology that would otherwise be out of your reach. This is particularly vital when it comes to making the right technology investments to get your disaster recovery solution off the ground.
Managed IT services can be customised to meet your exact needs — delivering anything from an occasional checkup or on-demand maintenance to dedicated teams that work closely with your staff on a regular basis. All of these options should be explored. If you overestimate your own IT capabilities and attempt to go it alone, the investments you make will go to waste. If your disaster recovery solution fails, it is just as bad as not having one at all. This is one area where legal firms, and businesses of all kinds, can’t afford to get things wrong.