DEMYSTIFYING CLOUD STORAGE FOR ADVOCATES
Cloud storage is a system of storing electronic information, on a remote server, accessible through internet.
Unlike personal storage, which is only available on a specific computer, information stored on 'cloud' could be accessed through any device, including your phone, wherever you are.
Despite unconsciously using cloud storage for personal purposes (like your photos on iCloud), most advocates hesitate to utilise it as a common office storage platform.
This post attempts to assuage a few concerns which may prohibit you from taking the leap to cloud storage.
1. IS MY DATA SAFE?
The data on your cloud storage is as secure as your email or your computer - if not more. Most consumer grade cloud storage services (like DropBox and OneDrive) have formidable systems to prevent data breaches.
However, if you are too anxious about your data security, there are high security cloud storage services, which make your data as secure as CIA or RAW. Such services, obviously, come at a heavy price.
Ask yourself whether you have ever been concerned about data breach from your personal computer. If your answer is 'no', a normal cloud service is sufficient for you.
My advice is to go ahead with a normal consumer cloud storage without being too anxious.
2. CAN I SHARE MY LOGIN AND PASSWORD WITH MY OFFICE STAFF AND COLLEAGUES?
It is a personal subjective decision.
In my opinion, if you run a small office, it is perfectly fine to share your login and password with your staff and colleagues, provided you do not store any personal data on the office cloud.
If all your physical files are freely accessible to your colleagues and staff, there is no reason why access to your digital files should be restricted.
However, there is one disadvantage with freely sharing your cloud's login and password, especially if your organisation has continuous influx and efflux of lawyers: your former colleagues will have continued access to your office data even after they leave your office. Constantly changing your password every time a person leaves your office may not be feasible.
To avoid this, you can entrust the login and password with your clerk or office manager; if any colleague requires to set up the cloud on a new device, he can contact such clerk/office manager. The device can be removed by the clerk when the respective colleague leaves office.
If you seek to have greater control on your office cloud data at a structural level, the next section is for you.
3. PERSONAL CLOUD v. TEAM CLOUD
All consumer cloud services offer two broad variants of cloud storage: 'personal cloud' or 'team cloud'.
A personal cloud cannot be administered at a structural level. A person having access to your cloud storage can deal with all folders and files as yourself.
On the other hand, a 'team cloud' empowers you with structural control on your data. You can decide which user can have what level of access with respect to each folder/file (including sub-folders). Team drives offer sophisticated customisation options in various permutations and combinations (depending on your subscription plan), with full administrative control.
However, team drives are expensive as they are charged per user. Illustratively, if personal cloud costs your X, a team drive (assuming your office has 5 persons) will cost you 5X.
Take an informed decision based on your office requirement and concomitant costs while selecting between 'personal cloud' or 'team cloud'. In my experience, 'personal cloud' is more than sufficient for most small stand-alone offices.
Apart from consumer cloud storage services, there are several Document Management services offering greater utility to advocates. However, these Document Management systems are very expensive compared to an average cloud service.
In my opinion, for stand-alone law offices or small law firms, a normal cloud storage service is more than sufficient, provided you arrange your folders and files systematically.
4. WHAT HAPPENS IF A EMPLOYEE/COLLEAGUE DELETES MY DATA?
That might sound nightmarish. But, do not worry; it is not as apocalyptic as it sounds. Most consumer cloud services come with data recovery options, to fully recover deleted files upto 6 months. Some cloud services also enable you to revert to an older version of a file or folder for 6 months.
Hence, your data is fully secure from untoward incidents.
In abundant caution, it is advisable to back up your data on an external hard-disc on a periodic basis (monthly or bimonthly).
5. DO I NEED AN INTERNET CONNECTION TO WORK ON FILES STORED IN MY CLOUD STORAGE?
While by definition, a cloud storage involves accessing data on a remote server through internet, you don't need a continuous internet connection to work on your cloud files.
Most cloud storage platforms offer desktop applications, wherein you can simultaneously sync all or any specific folders from cloud on your device.
The folders you sync can be accessed, and worked upon, even without an internet connection. Any changes you implement in these folders/files, when you work in a no-internet zone, will automatically get uploaded/ synced as soon as you gain internet access.
6. DO I NEED TO CONSTANTLY UPLOAD AND DOWNLOAD FOLDERS FROM CLOUD WHILE WORKING?
No you need not.
With their desktop applications, working on files stored in cloud storage is exactly the same as working on your personal computer. The files and folders are automatically uploaded and downloaded when ever there is any change.
7. WHAT IF MY COMPUTER DOES NOT HAVE ENOUGH SPACE TO STORE MY ENTIRE OFFIE ELECTRONICALLY?
If you do not want your entire office on your computer because of space constraints or any other reasons, most cloud storages offer 'selective synchronisation' which means that you can selectively download folders/ files that you regularly use.
You can also selectively choose which folders should be available on each device if you use your cloud on multiple devices.