Goodman and Carr mirror data centre to keep lawyers connected

A Toronto law firm has signed an agreement with Fusepoint not only to meet its disaster recovery needs but to make sure its lawyers can work weekends.

Goodman and Carr LLP is using Fusepoint Managed Services Inc. to automatically replicate, or mirror, data to its Mississauga, Ont.-based data centre facility. The key systems affected are e-mail and BlackBerry service, and document management.

The main reason for the agreement was to ensure that if Goodman and Carr’s downtown offices sustained any serious damage due to fire, flood or other unforeseen circumstance, “we (could) run our business from lawyers’ homes and have access to all our information,” said the firm’s IT director Mark Bonner. Goodman and Carr has been working with Fusepoint for about two months. Prior to that, the firm relied purely on tapes for data backup.

More law firms are coming to the realization that they need real-time back up, said George Kerns, CEO of Fusepoint. Kerns added that an increasing number of Fusepoint’s clientele are law firms – the company currently offers back-up and recovery services to about 10 large firms.

“Five years from now, my guess is that 80 per cent or 90 per cent of major law firms would have a mirrored site like this. It just seems to me like it’s just part of being in this business,” said Kerns.

People often consider dramatic events like a fire or flood when creating a disaster plan, but it’s far more likely that a virus will quietly slip into the network and bring the business to a grinding halt, said Bonner.

“It may be taking you too long to figure out (how to fix it), so the ability to pull the switch . . . is huge,” said Bonner.

But a second reason for a backup site, and one that is often overlooked, is the ability to incorporate planned downtime into an IT infrastructure.

Goodman and Carr typically takes its systems offline on Saturday mornings, said Bonner. In the past that proved to be an issue with the lawyers who still needed access to their e-mail and records over the weekend. On some occasions, routine downtime windows had to be cancelled in order to accommodate lawyers’ schedules, said Bonner.

“It’s harder to get downtime in the legal industry compared to engineering and other industries. It’s like begging for loose change, to tell you the truth,” he said.

“So it’s nice to able to take down the system on a Saturday morning for four hours, but allow it to fail over to Fusepoint, and then moreover fail back when we’re done so lawyers can carry on as usual,” he added.

Planned downtime is increasingly important as networks become more complicated and user demands for 24×7 availability become more common.

“It’s a bit like trying to change the tires on the car when it’s driving along the road. It’s tough to do and it’s getting harder,” he said.

The idea that law firms have disaster recovery plans is also gaining currency with their clients. There are no regulatory imperatives that require law firms to mirror their data, but more and more clients are looking for firms that provide those types of assurances and are actually making them part of RFPs, he said.

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