Office move prompts law firm to outsource e-mail

It wasn’t a disaster situation, but during a recent move in which law firm Blaney McMurtry LLP had to uproot all three floors of its offices, it had a chance to test out its new e-mail business continuity plan.

Lawyers have

to respond to client requests 24/7 or dire consequences could follow, so it was imperative the company’s e-mail and phone systems were available during the move, said Wendy Wiltshire, manager of information technology at the Toronto-based law firm.

Even though the move took place during a weekend, the lawyers still needed access to e-mail during that time.

“Having our e-mail system down for that period of time just was unacceptable,” Wiltshire said.

Because the firm wasn’t replacing its equipment, but moving it, there just wasn’t anyway to keep the system up.

Wiltshire considered possible solutions. At first, Blaney McMurtry considered duplicating its e-mail system internally.

“That was the first approach we took, but it just wasn’t a cost-effective approach. We really only needed a solution for about 18 hours.”

So, the company began looking for outside help, and came across Ceryx, an e-mail outsourcing company that also offers a Business Continuity Messaging (BCM) service.

Outsourcing the e-mail continuity saved Blaney McMurtry not only on hardware cost, but also on valuable manpower that was needed to look after other aspects of the move.

“We didn’t have time to offload a lot of extra work maintaining a second e-mail system when an external system was definitely the way to go,” Wiltshire said.

Because time was in short supply before the move, Blaney McMurtry chose to only spend time educating its 100 plus lawyers on how to access the system during the move.

The training process was simple, Wiltshire said. Ceryx provided the firm with a four-page document, which Blaney McMurtry boiled down to one page, lest it end up unread in lawyers’ desk drawers. There were only a few questions, and during the move, the lawyers were able to access their e-mail via a Web browser using 128-bit SSL3 encryption.

Now that the Blaney McMurtry has settled into its new digs, it plans on training the rest of its 150 or so admin staff on the system, as it will continue to use Ceryx as part of its business continuity strategy.

“E-mail is now really the single most mission-critical application on everybody’s network,” said Gus Harsfai, president and CEO of Ceryx, which houses its proprietary BCM technology at Q9 Networks in Toronto.

When disaster strikes your e-mail, it’s highly visible to the outside world, Harsfai contends, as those sending messages to you will receive error messages.

“It’s more than just making sure your e-mail is getting in. It’s more the example you’re setting for the rest of the world in terms of how you manage your IT department.”

The main advantage of outsourcing e-mail to a third party is companies don’t have to devote resources to setting up, updating and maintaining the services in-house, said Melanie Posey, a research director at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC.

But some organization have reservations about handing over their e-mail to others.

“Some companies feel better having the system on site, under their control, running on their hardware, and their people doing all the maintenance.”

However, for most SMBs, concern about giving e-mail to a third party isn’t an issue, Posey said. The main problem is that they aren’t aware the service exists.

But having discovered the value of outsourcing its e-mail business continuity plan, Blaney McMurtry sees the value of it.

One lawyer was in the midst of dealing with a client on an important issue and they were exchanging e-mail on a regular basis, Wiltshire said. The client wasn’t even aware that the law firm was in the midst of a move.

“There was no disruption in the lawyer’s ability to provide service to our client, and that’s really what it’s all about.”

In terms of the phones, Blaney McMurtry worked with Bell Canada to ensure minimal disruption. The system was taken down at 6 p.m. on Friday, moved into the new office by 8 p.m. and up and running by 10 p.m. During that time, all phone calls were forwarded to a single line, which was monitored.

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