Manitoba law firm makes the case for increased mobility, security

Thompson Dorfman Sweatman LLP is one of Manitoba’s oldest law firms, practicing in more than 20 areas of law. But TDS wanted to keep up with the times by bringing mobility to lawyers – while keeping confidential client information secure.

Previously, the entire organization was running on a single Dell server for e-mail, file, print, authentication and database functions, leaving it vulnerable to network outages and security breaches. And its data backup and security practice meant highly sensitive data was also vulnerable. There was no redundancy in place, so any downtime had a hefty cost.

When Trevor Anderson, the firm’s IT manager of network systems operations, joined the firm several years back, he knew things had to change. So TDS moved from a single Dell server to multiple HP servers and migrated its data centre and PCs from Dell to HP.

“It wasn’t that hard of a decision,” said Anderson in an interview with during HP‘s Art of Small Business press conference in San Francisco last week. “In a small environment, you only have (a certain) amount of time in a day.”

Anderson worked with reseller Insight Canada to upgrade to HP ProLiant servers, Ultra-slim desktop PCs, as well as HP LaserJet printers. Insight worked with the firm to increase network security and help lawyers boost their mobility – from behind the firewall.

TDS employs 79 lawyers and a support staff of more than 100. Previously, only two lawyers were using notebooks. Now, more than 50 per cent of the firm’s lawyers are using notebooks, and another four or five lawyers are using tablet PCs to take handwritten notes (using Microsoft OneNote). Anderson said 54 per cent of the firm’s IT budget this year is dedicated to hardware, and he’s been getting more requests from lawyers for tablets.

This is particularly important, he said, as articling students and young associates join the firm, who are more comfortable with technology and have come to expect it.

“When I started, security wasn’t a core function,” he said. Now, the firm is putting security first and building everything out from there. Lawyers are more mobile, but they can’t store critical data on their notebooks. Nor do they use instant messaging. And the newer notebooks use integrated biometrics for authentication.

In addition to mobility, storage is one of the firm’s top concerns going forward, and it now has a legal-specific document management system in place. One of its clients, for example, is requiring that the firm scan anywhere from one million to 10 million legal documents, which need to be archived and backed up.

According to AMI Partners, a research and consulting firm, consolidation of hardware, storage, databases and applications is a key trend this year, where SMBs are looking to lower costs and better manage and secure their IT environments. Security, storage and backup are also hot topics, as more SMBs recognize the need to back up their data – not only for business continuity, but also for compliance requirements such as Bill C-198 and PIPEDA. Storage has become increasingly important, according to AMI, with a surge of interest in secondary and network storage.

As SMBs go mobile, they realize their information is no longer under lock and key, said John Dayan, vice-president of marketing and business development with Hewlett-Packard’s Personal Systems Group, in a press briefing. Yet, they can’t be competitive without technology. But SMBs are not as well served as other market segments, he added, and their complexity makes it hard to serve that market.

This was the reasoning behind HP’s launch of a dozen products and services last week targeted at SMBs, including HP Total Care services and its Small Business Connection Web portal. It also launched products focused on mobility and networking, business protection and security, do-it-yourself marketing and retail point-of-sale.

HP Total Care for Small Business is available in the U.S., and is expected to launch in Canada in the near future, according to Michael McAvoy, director of SMB and commercial marketing for Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Co. Total Care will offer a range of free and fee-based support, services and programs, such as configuring, protecting and recycling PCs. HP will continue to add to Total Care, said Dayan, focusing on partnerships with resellers that specialize in vertical markets.

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Vawn Himmelsbach
Vawn Himmelsbach
Is a Toronto-based journalist and regular contributor to IT World Canada's publications.
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