Start Page: Prepare your firm for a disaster before one strikes

Kim Brand
June 19, 2013
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Kim BrandAs the deadly spring storms in Moore, Okla., on consecutive weekends have shown, lightning may indeed strike twice in the same place. If this is the type of unlikely event you thought was too rare to plan for – my advice is to start planning now!

You don’t need to be a technology expert to understand disaster planning. In fact, it may be an advantage not to be. What most of our customers want is continuity and productivity. Preparing to continue operations in the face of disaster can be as simple as simulating small disasters and observing the reaction of your organization. You may be surprised how fragile your organization is.

As I have described before, most law firms are ill-prepared for an interruption in their Internet service. The impact can be diminished by setting up a hotspot on your mobile phone. Outsourcing your email to a cloud service provider is another defensive strategy. Here, bigger is better. The considerable investments made in “disaster avoidance” by providers that have the resources to deploy multiple data centers are clearly superior to those affordable by the typical law firm.

Backups – local and offsite – are fundamental . . . but not enough. Don’t be confused by the difference between “backup” and disaster recovery. Convenient, secure and inexpensive options for protecting your data in the cloud have never been greater. But if your PC fails, access to the information you’ve so carefully backed up may be lost together with your software, settings, activation codes and personal configuration details. We have visited with many clients that “thought” they had cloud backups but couldn’t recall the name of the provider, their login credentials or what was backed up. They were shocked that the vendor was difficult to reach or generally unhelpful when they did. What do you expect for $5 a month?
valuestack-facts.gif I recommend that in addition to data backup you consider system imaging, too. This is a method for protecting what I call the rest of the “Value Stack” of your information technology assets.

Full system-imaging programs that “mirror” PC hard drives on inexpensive/portable USB hard drives cost less than $100. They can be used to replicate a PC in about two hours. The alternative: re-installing, configuring and licensing all the software on a PC can take a day or more.

Take the time to simulate and prepare for disaster today.

Survey the equipment you use: Identify each device that connects to your network. Document who put it there, when it was purchased, what it does and who you call to fix it.

Survey the services you use: Audit your bills. Who do you pay? What is their support commitment? How do you reach them during/after business hours? What are the subscription details?

Survey the software you use: Where/how did you buy it? Where are the license/activation keys? What is the vendor’s support commitment?

Pull the plug!

Seriously, pick a time and run a disaster drill! What is your plan of action? Does a dead server, PC, Internet connection or network switch create mayhem? Does life end if you can’t get email for a few minutes (or few days)? You can effectively simulate any of these disasters by “pulling” the network connection from any device.

Every firm should have one or two trained staff who can take charge during a disaster. They should have a list of contact information, including phone numbers and personal email addresses, for every employee. Vendor and service provider contact information should be documented. Today, it is easy to store this information, preferably encrypted and/or password protected, in a spreadsheet kept online or on a mobile device. It’s also handy to print it out and keep at home. Remember: You may not have access to your office network so keeping it on a PC or server is not a good idea!

The attitude you should have regarding equipment or service failures is not “if” but “when” it will happen. The only thing you can control is “what” you will do about it. The time to prepare for a storm is while the sun is shining.•


Kim Brand is a technology expert and President of Computer Experts Inc. in Indianapolis. He speaks and writes frequently on technology subjects. To get in touch with Kim, send an email to or call 317-833-3000. The opinions expressed are those of the author.


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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.