THE LAWYERS WEEKLY
March 4, 2011 | 25
How to backup your files now
Techno-savvy clients abound, and they
expect outside counsel to protect their
data as well as they themselves do.
“In December, I had to complete a
client form about data backup, security,
business continuity —they wanted to
know that the people they do business
with handle their data as well as they
do,” says Pater.
“Clients are more sophisticated than
law firms, though firms are catching up,”
Rothman adds, noting that financial
industry clients may require firms to
perform independent audits to check law
firm data security.
e all buy insurance, maintain our homes and cars and generally
safeguard things that matter. But the information on our
computers? Surprising numbers of people don’t create extra
copies of the electronically stored information (ESI) they depend
on. // Lawyers, like other business people, can ill afford to not back up their
data. The continuity of their practices depends on it. // Consider these tips
to get your firm’s backups in shape.
Music and movie lovers have long
abandoned cassettes, opting instead for
optical discs or hard-disc-based devices.
If only these same people would see the
folly in continuing to back up business
data using tapes.
“Tape wears,” says John Pater,
director of information technology for
Davis LLP. “It’s hard to ensure the
integrity of the data on it, since it’s more
sensitive to dust, heat, magnetic forces,
moisture and so forth.”
And as technology evolves, machines
and software that read backup tapes
become scarcer. “Even if you have the
hardware, the software likely won’t run
on the physical systems you have,” says
Chuck Rothman, director, e-discovery
services for Wortzman Nickle
CDs aren’t much better.
“Manufacturers say CDs will last from
50 to 100 years, but they haven’t been
around that long,” Rothman notes. He
offers this rough guideline: “If you want
to keep data for a year or two, CDs are
fine. If you want to keep it for ten years,
don’t use CDs.”
Keep data in few places
You can exhort staff to periodically
back up their own documents, email
and other business data. And you can
herd cats. That doesn’t mean you
want to attempt either task.
Businesses of all sizes can cost-effectively set up their computing
environments to keep information on a
central data server. “That way, I don’t
have to worry about reaching out to
laptops and desktops,” Pater explains.
“If it’s all in one spot, it’s easier to
maintain data integrity and security, to
back it up, to make it accessible.”
Online backups — the pros
Feld enthuses about his online backup
tools, Polypro and DropBox. MozyPro
backs up the firm’s systems to the cloud
every night, while DropBox backs up in
real time and enables him to
“synchronize” the firm’s files on other
“Don’t only do on-site backups,” Feld
urges. “We go home at night knowing
that if our office burns down, we are
good to go the next day.”
Cull data you don’t need to keep
We’re digital pack rats largely because
of the “storage is cheap, so why not
keep it?” refrain.
But the less data you keep, the less
you have to back up, (and the smaller
the sea of data that you face during
“The main cost isn’t hard disks, it’s
the maintenance,” Rothman explains.
“If you must back up one terabyte of
data every day, that takes some effort.”
Online backups — the cons
Pater and Rothman don’t share Feld’s
“It’s still fairly expensive if you stay
within Canadian borders,” Pater says.
“It’s a little cheaper outside Canada, but
if servers are on US soil, the [USA]
Patriot Act comes into play.”
Rothman acknowledges other people’s
Patriot Act worries even if he doesn’t
share them. His concern? Providers may
store data from several customers on the
same servers. “Their backup media
contain backups of an entire server, not a
separate backup of each client’s
material,” he explains. “This means the
provider’s backup policies might not
mesh with your backup policies.”
Automate backup processes
“Human error is the biggest reason
for data loss,” Feld says, “so I use
automatic backups that nobody need
remember to run.”
Use hard disks
At his office, Toronto real estate
lawyer David Feld runs a network-attached storage (NAS) device
containing four mirrored one-terabyte
drives to back up his firm’s documents
and Microsoft Exchange server. Pater’s
firm uses disk-to-disk backup run by
Since the interface between hard
disks and computers has not changed
much in decades, both will likely be able
to read today’s backups years from now.
Rothman tells of successfully reading a
hard drive from the 1980s using an
interface card he still had. “Hard disks
are long-term high-capacity storage you
don’t have to apply power to,” he says.
Create more than one backup
“When I handle e-discovery, I
always create two backups, since
backups can fail too,” Rothman says.
Online backups —
SLA clauses to look for
Online backup service providers explain
how they serve clients using service level
agreements. Read them to learn things like
what happens to your data if the vendor
goes out of business and how much time
it takes to get your data restored.
Periodically test your backups
When it comes to data backup,
many people just set it and forget it.
They also forget that there are only two
types of hard disks in the world: those
that have failed and those that will.
Since even the most redundant
setups, which can include mirrored
servers and tape backups, have been
known to fail, make time to check your
Less expensive options
Are you a cash-strapped solo just
starting out? For the time being, buy an
external hard drive, connect it to your
computer and activate Time Machine on
a Mac or Windows Backup on a
Another handy utility, Windows
Briefcase can create incremental
backups of important folders on USB
memory sticks or external drives.
And as soon as you can, budget for
business-grade backup systems.