Making The Move: Taking My Law Office to Abacus Private Cloud

I am a solo attorney, with a criminal and traffic ticket defense practice at Anchorage, Alaska. For the past 16 years I have had my own law office. For 25 years I have closely followed the use of computers in law offices.

The Problem

About six years ago, during a time when I had no paralegal, I put my entire law office on a business grade laptop so I could be mobile and use my time more efficiently by working between court hearings and appointments, rather than driving to a desktop computer at my home office. However, that solution was not workable.

I was so active with multiple court hearings and appointments, week after week, that my laptop simply could not take the constant mobility and use. The risk of laptop or hard drive failure became too great. I needed to find a computing platform that would let me retain the mobility and efficiency I enjoyed with my laptop, yet safeguarded my digital data. In short, I a computing platform where my data and applications were stable, safe, and secure; yet were also accessible via an Internet connection.

First, I put my entire law office on a single desktop computer in a small building on some recreational property I owned. However, after months of trial and error, this proved unworkable due to unstable electrical power and a slow, unreliable DSL Internet connection.

Next, I tried hosting my law office desktop computers at a local office center, which had an expensive, high speed business-grade Internet connection. My legal assistant and I would then access those computers via standard, off-the-shelf, remote access software. This solution was marginal at best — no tech support for local connectivity or hardware issues; plus there was significant expense in all the equipment and time involved in attempting to keep three desktop computers operational 24×7. I was not satisfied with this temporary solution. I desperately needed a turnkey, real-life, workable solution to my legal computing needs.

Rejected Alternatives

I wanted a secure, fully integrated, turnkey private cloud solution, run by a reputable vendor, who was technically competent, and which I could fully trust. Therefore, I rejected piecemeal or patchwork alternatives, which might give me consumer-grade, partial solutions to certain aspects of my problem, such as software as a service (SaaS) and common cloud data storage products (Google Drive and Dropbox).

I also rejected hosting my desktop computers in a rack at a commercial data center in the Midwest as it is too expensive. Likewise, even though I already owned most all of the equipment I needed to build my own private data center, I rejected that idea as too expensive and time-consuming, and because it was beyond my technical expertise to achieve the level of data security and reliability that I needed.

The Solution

In mid-2011 I moved my entire law office to Abacus Sky, a first generation private cloud platform for attorneys.  Using this product demonstrated that private cloud computing is stable, reliable, and makes economic sense in a dynamic, real life, working legal environment.

Then five months ago, I was given a chance to move to Abacus Private Cloud, a a cutting edge private cloud platform, solely for lawyers and law firms from Abacus Data Systems. It runs in state of the art data centers within the United States and is specifically designed to run legal applications.

I migrated my practice to Abacus Private Cloud. Doing so involved transferring all of all my data onto an encrypted USB drive, which was then shipped overnight to Abacus Private Cloud, who reloaded that data onto my virtual server. The tech people at Abacus Private Cloud built my virtual server and behind the scenes they did all the detailed, technical work to make the migration as easy and painless as possible.

Why Abacus Private Cloud Works for Me

I had very high standards for my cloud computing vendor:  I insisted their product  consistently have superior performance, and excellent reliability. I can honestly say that Abacus Private Cloud has fully exceeded all my expectations. It is very responsive, stable, reliable, and economical (when compared to traditional law office computing models).

The benefits to my law practice from Abacus Private Cloud are:

  • My data is secure and safe in the Abacus Private Cloud data center. No more local data backups, because all data is on the private cloud server, and is backed up there.
  • My local equipment costs are drastically lower than before I switched to a private cloud. I eliminated the three desktop computers that I was previously accessing remotely.
  • I don’t need costly application software on each local access device. All law office applications can be run on the private cloud server, not on local hardware. The local devices are there simply to display and interact with the private cloud server.
  • My private cloud server can run any software, whether related to Abacus or not. Therefore, I can run the application software that my meets the specific needs of my law practice, regardless of the vendor.
  • My local IT and tech support costs are $0.
  • My staff and I have become totally mobile, without sacrificing efficiency. This means that each employee, as needed, can work on their own schedule, and from any location with cell phone coverage, electricity, and an Internet connection. This creates a flexible, modern, and dynamic work environment, resulting in a better quality of life, happier attorneys and staff, and a better work-life balance for all involved.
  • All law office applications and data are accessible 24×7 for each user via any device: desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone.
  • Private cloud technical requests (e.g., email configuration, remote access from a new device, etc.) are promptly resolved by the Abacus Private Cloud support staff.
  • System reliability (uptime) is outstanding. In five months of constant operation I think my virtual server was rebooted twice, resulting in a 5-10 minute outage each time, during off hours. Users are given advance notice of periodic night/weekend system downtime for maintenance upgrades. Also, tech support staff are on-call to respond to after-hours emergencies. The high level and degree of support for this product indicates to me that Abacus truly is concerned about the viability of my law practice, both now and in the long term.
  • Abacus Private Cloud is scalable. My firm only pays for the actual number of users, which can be simply increased or decreased to match changes in firm staffing.

Conclusion

My experience with Abacus Private Cloud proves that it really works! Abacus Private Cloud provides all attorneys and law firms with a simple, easy-to-implement, modern, secure, and customizable way to use the private cloud to practice law more efficiently, with more flexibility, and with much less cost, than traditional law office computing methods.

Abacus Private Cloud completely solved my law office computing problems by giving me the security, reliability, technical support, and mobility I need to effectively practice law competitively, efficiently, and economically in the digital age.

My Private Cloud Environment on Abacus Private Cloud

My private, personal digital law office on Abacus Private Cloud contains the following components,  which form an integrated, fully functional digital law office:
 On The Private Cloud (remote) Server:
  • Case Management and Accounting Software: Abacus Law Gold, and a legacy accounting system using QuickBooks Pro2014
  • Office Productivity Software for Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Etc. : Word 2013, Excel 2013
  • Email Software: Outlook 2013
  • Software To Create, Read, Search, and Annotate Digital Documents: Adobe Acrobat Professional X
  • An Internet Fax Service To Fax Digital Documents and Convert Incoming Faxes To Digital Documents: MyFax
  • Disk storage space for all applications and all digital law office data
At the Local (user) Location:
  • One or more digital display and input devices (Desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone)
  • A Scanner or Digital Copier To Digitize Incoming Paper Documents for transfer to the private cloud: Assorted Fujitsu ScanSnap scanners and a Kyocera digital copier
  • A Printer To Make Paper Copies of Stored Digital Documents: assorted HP LaserJet printers and a multi-function Kyocera digital copier
  • A Voicemail To Email Service to convert  incoming telephone voice messages into digital files, which are then emailed to the recipient: an Avaya voicemail system, obtained through a local office center
  • An Internet Connection (wireless or wired)

 

About James A. Farr

James A. Farr
James Farr is a criminal and traffic ticket defense attorney at Anchorage, Alaska. Mr. Farr moved from the Midwest to Alaska over 30 years ago, seeking adventure and his future, in a wild and beautiful location. In addition to briefly commercial fishing and working in oil exploration on Alaska’s North Slope, Mr. Farr has been an Alaska state court Magistrate at Anchorage and in the Bush; a state administrative hearing officer; and Anchorage coroner and public administrator. For 25 years Mr. Farr has closely followed the use of computers in law offices. For the past 16 years he has had his own solo law firm. For the past 3 years, Mr. Farr has successfully had his entire law office in a private cloud, utilizing data servers located thousands of miles from his physical location. Mr. Farr currently uses Abacus Private Cloud as his private cloud platform of choice.

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