Now that most firms have embraced scanning their case documents into digital files and are no longer relying as heavily on paper files, it is extremely important to make sure that your data is being backed up daily on your pc and/or network.

Here are a few questions to think about: Who is responsible for backing up the data in your office? How often is your data being backed up? Do you have at least two methods of backup in case one fails? Is “all” of your data really being backed up? Is your data able to be easily restored from the backup?

I ask you to think about these questions, because I received a call from an Office Manager of a law firm who told me that the law firm had all of its data and client files in the “cloud” (on a hosted server on the Internet). They had been told by the IT Company selling them on the “cloud” concept that this would be a better option for them rather than having their file servers at their office, because they would be less concerned about maintenance of their networking equipment. The law firm’s main software application is a case management software program that is specific to their practice area and they scan and link all of their files to their cases. The software manufacturer had released an upgrade, so the law firm wanted to upgrade to the latest version of the software. They notified their IT Company of the upgrade and the IT Company proceeded to perform the software upgrade on their “cloud” server. After performing the software upgrade for the law firm, the IT Company ran out of space on the “cloud” server and all of the law firm’s case files in the second half of the alphabet were missing the attached scanned files. On top of the mess, the cloud IT Company informed the law firm that they did not have a backup of the files.

How can you make sure you take the appropriate steps so that something like this doesn’t happen to you?

  1.  Make someone at your office responsible for backing up your data daily. Even if you have a file server with a tape backup, make sure the person who is responsible for the backups in your office, backs up the data in all of your software programs to a local C drive at the end of each day. I like to setup a C:\DAILYBUP folder and then create the days of the week as sub-folders(1Mon, 2Tue, 3Wed, 4Thu, 5Fri). All software programs have an option to backup within theprogram. For example, QuickBooks, select FILE, BACKUP. Follow the prompts to backup locally and then select the C:\DAILYBUP\ day of the week folder.
  2. If you have a tape backup on your file server, make sure that you are changing your tapes daily and you should have at least ten tapes for a two week rotation (Week 1 – Monday through Friday, Week 2 – Monday through Friday), along with three tapes as monthly backup tapes. The last night backup tape should be taken off-site nightly and the monthly tapes should also be off-site.
  3. Also, make sure that a full backup is being performed and not a modified backup. A full backup backs up all of the data and a modified backup backs up the changed files only. It can be cumbersome to restore from modified backups.
  4. In addition to the local backup or the tape backup, put a USB hard drive on your pc or file server. You can backup the data to the USB hard drive in addition to the local C drive or the tape backup. Therefore, you will have two different methods of backup in place.
  5. Additionally, check and verify that the nightly backup took place every day. You can receive a report via email and look for any errors. Too many times, people put in a tape religiously every day, to find out that their tape backup has not run in days, weeks, or months. You must verify that the backup took place.
  6. Once a quarter, run a sample restore of a few files to make sure that your data can be restored and to test the backup.
  7. If any of your software programs use SQL, make sure that a MS SQL backup agent is being used to back up the data properly. To many times this is overlooked by an IT person and when something goes wrong, the data cannot be restored.
  8. Most importantly, work with a professional IT company that is properly insured, not just an independent consultant or a friend of a friend who knows more than you about computers. It’s your client’s data. If it is gone, what happens to your practice and what is your liability? Take the steps to make sure your data is protected and think twice before putting it in the “cloud.


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Published in the April 2011 issue of Pennsylvania Family Lawyer.