Business continuity planning should be a key focus for organizations of any size. For legal firms, disaster recovery and business continuity are critical. The sensitive nature of legal data makes disaster recovery particularly important. Having a plan in place can allow swift recovery following a natural disaster, security breach, or hardware failure.
Anyone involved in law firm management should understand that disaster and data loss risks are ever present. Following this advice can help you to evaluate how your own firm stacks up against industry best-practices.
Determine the Risks with Business Impact Analysis
Risk assessment is the first and one of the most critical steps in IT business continuity planning. In a law firm, many of the risks crossover with dissimilar businesses, and others will be unique to your industry. Data loss or temporary lack of data access will be a key concern. How will your firm manage ongoing cases? If you were to lose access to your IT systems tomorrow, how would that impact your business? Where are your IT systems based (locally, cloud, and at managed data centers), and what kind of redundancy exists for stored data and decentralized software?
By understanding the risks and potential business impact of a disaster or significant outage you will be able to better shape your business continuity plan.
Understand Your Network Infrastructure
It is critical to understand your network structure, both within your physical premises and outside of your organization. Do you have data and software based in the cloud? Are backups stored at a secure data center? Do you have on-site systems that are critical to daily firm activities?
Appoint Emergency Response Teams and Develop Practices
Knowing who does what in specific scenarios will allow you to better respond to an emergency. Your internal IT department may be able to manage data recovery and bring systems back online (or provide alternatives) in many cases. One example could include deploying laptops for remote work when your main site is inaccessible or otherwise compromised. IT staff may also be able to facilitate switchover to backup data storage and productivity solutions.
Your internal IT staff should be consulted throughout the disaster recovery planning stage, as they will be able to provide insights outside of the scope of your legally trained staff.
Develop a Vendor Support Relationships
Your internal IT teams will be essential during disaster recovery planning and in the event of a disaster, but they may not be able to cover every scenario. Vendor and service provider relationships will also be important. Existing vendors may have business continuity solutions that they can offer for your main productivity tasks.
A managed IT service can help you to design robust systems, including cloud and off-site network solutions that allow your firm to function immediately following a disaster. With a managed IT contract you could even have your complete IT disaster recovery plan assessed, developed, and maintained by professionals.
Continually Update Your IT Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plan
A business continuity plan and IT disaster recovery strategy should be implemented and then continually updated. Technology changes at a rapid pace, and new solutions will emerge that were not available when your original recovery plan was developed.
New solutions and changes in your business make it necessary to continually reevaluate your needs. Nobody hopes for a disaster, but, failing to plan for one can be just as bad. A sound business continuity and IT disaster recovery plan can make the difference between maintaining your law firm, or suffering catastrophic losses following a significant event.