COVID-19 Question of the Day #11 - Cloud Computing

By ILTA Membership posted 04-13-2020 15:15

  
We recently introduced an initiative called the COVID-19 Question of the Day (QoD). These questions were developed based on content covered in our COVID-19 Global Roundtable and harvested from our eGroups. To provide you with quick access to all of the answers received on our QoD postings, we have aggregated the answers to each question into a blog post. We will also post summary documents in the Resource Library for the Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity and Open Public Forum Communities of Interest. Also, our next virtual roundtable will be on Tuesday, April 14 at 1:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) where we will continue to explore each of the QoDs in more detail! 

Summary:

  • Most respondents were already proponents of cloud computing.
  • The pandemic has changed users’ perspectives about cloud computing in many instances.
  • The pandemic is changing the equipment strategy for many organizations (i.e., more laptops).
  • This has exposed which users and programs are able to work in a WFH environment.

Has the pandemic changed your view of cloud computing? 

  • I would say probably not.  While in some cases it may have made things easier, there was always a need to access information on site.  At least for us.  We are a little unique in that we have a number of databases that are not supported "in the cloud" yet.  Hopefully maybe soon. 
  • No, the pandemic hasn't changed my view of cloud computing.  I was already bought-into the value that the appropriate use of cloud computing can bring and it has nothing to do with where data or servers are located.  I wrote a post (well, some might call it a rant) on LinkedIn about it recently (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/false-premise-premises-ben-weinberger/) after reading an article touting how cloud computing was somehow the savior for firms in this time of remote working. It's not - in my experience, most firms already had fairly robust remote capabilities. Many firms have scrambled recently to enable their broader user base who previously didn't need remote access, but that had nothing to do with cloud computing, either, and would have presented the same challenges regardless of where the resources were located (need for increased licensing, more efficient workflow, HR policies, etc.). 
  • Firms should be asking themselves how many people in their organization are able to support the on-going operations of their on-premises enterprise applications (email, DMS, file shares, eDiscovery, time & billing, etc.).  If you answered 1 or even 2 persons in the firm, then ask yourself how quickly can you replace them if they got sick?  What is the impact to organization if the system goes down and restoration is not possible due to lack of personnel?  Now play worst case scenario modeling.  Then decide what makes sense for your firm. 
  • It was a scramble to get increased licensing for a larger remote workforce and the HR policies.  That and to quickly come up for workarounds for some last remaining paper processes that people still insisted on.  The prebill process is a big example.  Attorneys love to review them in paper format, so we weren't to the point of automating that yet.  A new process had to be implemented immediately without purchasing anything new and utilizing tools already in place.  One of my teammates worked with Accounting and our DMS to come up with a process that wouldn't involve a lot of manual work for one or two people to get them out. 
  • For us, our view of cloud has not changed as a result of the pandemic.  Whether systems are "on-prem", or in "the cloud" is not the relevant issue to us. The relevant issues are the design, availability, scalability and flexibility of the infrastructure. Can the systems operate efficiently whether 100% of the firm is in the office or working remotely? Does one need to be in "the cloud" to deliver 100% functionality, service and support? (I think not.)  To clarify, on-prem for us means our firm owned and operated server/storage hardware, our hypervisor, our systems are located in redundant, highly available data centers, and configured in a highly available, highly redundant, highly flexible, highly scalable manner. Certain systems and functionality are cloud-based. I'm not certain I know of any firm with nothing in the cloud.  Sounds a bit like the cloud, doesn't it? And that is how I describe it to many of our lawyers – our systems are in our own "cloud". The lawyers do not need to be concerned as to the location of the systems. We have long designed our systems to accommodate people working anywhere, anytime – as have many firms and companies. Nothing we are doing is unique, proprietary or exciting. But it is solid. Many of you are doing the same things.  I have nothing against the cloud. We are all on a migration to cloud computing of some definition. At some point, we will no longer run our own server/storage hardware. We will be in the cloud. Many of you are doing good work with the cloud. Work that is not unique, proprietary or exciting. Work that is solid.  We will continue to work our strategy and plan of moving functionality to the cloud as and when it makes sense.  I suspect there are success stories from firms operating "on-prem" and from firms operating in the cloud. And I suspect there are some not so successful stories from firms operating "on-prem" and from firms operating in "the cloud".  It's not about where the systems are, it's about how they are designed and configured. Have a sound plan and work the plan. 
  • I was wondering if the pandemic and cloud is encouraging anyone to rethink the hardware they deploy to staff?  Would deploying laptops vs. PCs for staff members be part of a Business Continuity Plan and Emergency Response Strategy going forward to ensure a mobile-ready workforce?  And with it comes the need for a Learning and Knowledge Strategy. Would you allow people to work from home 1 day a month (or more) to reinforce and maintain the knowledge and skills of how to work remotely? 
  • Incorporating a rotation plan, so people can work from home periodically and exercise their "remote work muscle memory" is a good idea. Having a supportive firm culture and addressing HR policies accordingly support such a move. Adopting processes which are location agnostic also are important.  A laptop centric approach, where all partners, lawyers and employees (and critical sourced resources) can effectively work from anywhere is one option. Another option would be to adopt a thin client approach, where one's desktop is a virtual image. In a thin client environment, one still must ensure that folks have appropriate endpoint hardware and connectivity to work effectively.  We cannot assume that everybody has a computer at home, or broadband internet access, for that matter. 
  • We are discussing replacing desktops with laptops for Legal Administrative Assistants and other support staff.  Before COVID, all attorneys, paralegals, directors, and a few select administrative staff are given laptops.  Non-Shareholder attorneys and directors are also given a docking station, dual monitors, and keyboard/mouse for their home office.  Shareholders have to reimburse the Firm if they want the same setup at their home.  Before COVID we reimaged the laptops that we just phased out and setup them up along with their docking stations and older monitors (still in decent condition) for our Legal Administrative Assistants.  We setup a training session on how to hook up the equipment, multi-factor authentication, and how to work remotely.  We also setup a time for everyone to connect from home and work for a short period.  This allowed us to verify the Firm and our users had sufficient bandwidth and address any issues before the work from home order went out. 
  • We had already been moving key systems to the cloud before this, so in a sense, the cloud helped us handle the rapid transition to a remote workforce in a more seamless manner.  As we review processes that are still paper-bound and premises-bound, we will continue to identify areas to leverage the cloud even more to better position ourselves today and in the future.  For us, this has been a reinforcement, and a validation, of our strategy to transform our systems and our processes, and to embrace the cloud where practical.  I would wager those organizations who have been reluctant in the past will reevaluate their positions. 
 #COVID-19

#RemoteWorking

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