Getting Your Head into the Cloud

Whether you’re setting up a practice for the first time or upgrading existing technology, odds are you’re taking a long, hard look at the cloud. Here is a checklist to help you through the process.

Getting Started

Moving your data to the cloud is all about vetting the cloud provider – will they or won’t they keep your client information secure?  Here are your marching orders:

Research the Provider

  1. What is their reputation?
  2. How many years have they been in business?
  3. Are bloggers and news outlets critical or supportive?
  4. Can the provider give you a list of other lawyers who use their product?  (If so, check the provider’s references.)
  5. Talk to friends and colleagues: are they familiar with the product or provider?  What are their thoughts?
  6. If you belong to a listserv, poll the members of the listserv.
  7. Use the power of Google to reveal problems.  A general search using the product or provider name is a good start.  To uncover security issues, Google the product or provider name followed by the words “security concerns” or “data breach.”  To reveal if outages are a problem, search the product or provider name followed by the words “downtime statistics.”

Evaluate Speed and Reliability

Uptime, bandwidth, and general reliability of the Internet matter.

  1. Check on provider uptime statistics as part of your general research – see the discussion above.
  2. Make sure your technology is up to the task.  To use the cloud effectively you must have a fast, reliable Internet connection. If you don’t, contact your ISP.  If there is a remedy (and you can afford it), great.  If not, taking your practice into the cloud is likely not a good choice.

Read the Fine Print

  1. Dig into the provider’s website and follow any links that reference Terms of Service, Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, Security, or Service Agreements.
  2. Contact customer service for clarification of terms if needed.

Educate Yourself about Encryption

Every cloud provider encrypts your data.  The devil is in the details:

  1. Is your data encrypted at all times (in transit and at rest)?
  2. Does the provider hold a master encryption key?  (If so the provider can access your data at any time, thus defeating client confidentiality.)
  3. Is third-party encryption an option?  If the answer is yes, you can lock out the cloud provider.  A master key only permits the provider to unlock their encryption, not yours.  With third-party (AKA client-side) encryption, you – the user – apply your own encryption software before uploading any content to the cloud provider’s site.  Here’s the rub:  encrypting your own content isn’t always an option for compatibility reasons, so check with the provider.

Learn about Data Access Policies – “Authorized” and “Unauthorized”

Getting an answer to the master encryption key question will resolve whether the provider’s employees can freely access your information.  Now you need to ask:

  1. Will the provider notify you if authorities seek access to your account information?  (Some providers comply with subpoenas first and tell you about it later.)
  2. What is the provider’s procedure if a data breach occurs?

Know Before You Go: Security, Backups, Redundancy, and Local Copies of Your Data

  1. Find out what the provider has to say about the physical security of its facilities.  Features like fire suppression, redundant electrical systems, temperature controlled environments, video surveillance, and 24/7 monitoring by security personnel are standard.
  2. Learn everything you can about how your data is backed up. Where, when, and how.  A decent cloud provider has multiple servers that are geographically dispersed.
  3. Consider it a deal breaker if you can’t download a local copy of your own data. Keeping a local copy just makes sense.  First, it protects you if the provider goes out of business (some have).  Second, if the provider suffers a catastrophic breach you’ll still have a pristine copy of your information.  [Caveat: ability to download a local copy of your data does not mean you can work with it offline.  This is simply a way to protect yourself in a worst case scenario.]

Nail down the Details: Support, Training, Data Migration, and Data Integration

Cloud products are generally pretty easy to use, but at some point you’ll need help – maybe at the outset when you import your data – or later when you start using more advanced features of the program.  Either way, ask:

  1. Does the provider offer live telephone support?  Live chat?  Email?  What are the hours?  Is it free or is there a support contract?
  2. What resources does the provider have on its website?  Searchable knowledge base?  User forums?  Blog?  Training videos?  Webinars?
  3. Will the provider help you migrate your existing data?  Are you on your own?  If there is a fee for data migration, get an estimate.
  4. What about product compatibility and integration?  Some users need the cloud product to communicate with an existing piece of software, like QuickBooks or Outlook.  [Tip: don’t just take the cloud provider’s word for it.  Run another Google search: Is (cloud product name) compatible with (existing program)? If the blogosphere has spotted issues, you’ll uncover them quickly enough.

Product Cost and Licensing

Most cloud products are sold on a monthly subscription basis.  Do a bit of research:

  1. What is the current fee per user?  Any price breaks for multiple licenses?
  2. Research historic costs.  If monthly fees have jumped significantly in the recent past, factor this into your choice.
  3. Are product upgrades or new features included in existing subscriptions or is there an additional fee?
  4. What does a single license or a single user account include? Some providers are strict: one user/one license/one device.  Others are more flexible: one user/one license/multiple downloads: desktop, laptop, tablet.

Choose the Right Version

If your cloud provider offers multiple packages or products, proceed cautiously.

  1. Look for a Web page on the provider’s site that will compare the features of each version side by side.
  2. Call customer service when in doubt.
  3. Take advantage of free trials, which are almost universally available. A trial run is the best way to know whether you’re really going to like something.

Cyber Liability and Data Breach – What if the Worst Happens?

If you’ve decided to store your data in the cloud, it might be a good idea to have cyber liability and data breach coverage.

The Professional Liability Fund Excess Claims Made Plan automatically includes a cyber liability and data breach response endorsement with these features:

  • Forensic and legal assistance to determine compliance with applicable law
  • Notifications to individuals as required by law
  • 12 months credit monitoring to each notified client
  • Loss mitigation resources for law firms

If you aren’t eligible or don’t wish to purchase excess coverage through the PLF, contact a commercial carrier.

This is Too Much Work – Can’t You Just Tell Me What to Do or Give Me a List of Recommended Products?

No.  I can’t make this decision for you.  You and I have different likes, dislikes, needs, skill levels, and preferences.  (Think: Windows vs. Mac, Word vs. WordPerfect, or Mayonnaise vs. Miracle Whip.)

If you want to be happy with your choice, you have to make it.  We can talk, I can point you toward resources, or send you comparison charts.  But in the end you are the decider.

[All Rights Reserved 2015 Beverly Michaelis]


Getting the Most Out of MS Office for iPad

So you’ve download Office for iPad, now what?  Learn how to get the most out of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint by watching the tutorials available from InvestinTech.  If you are new to Office for iPad, start with the General Tips.  Some of the more popular InvestinTech topics are:

Each tutorial includes screen shots and easy-to-follow instructions.

InvestinTech is primarily known as PDF solution provider.  While on the site, check out their line of PDF products.  If you’re not in the market to buy, InvestinTech also offers some nifty FREE tools:

  • Slim PDF Reader
  • Docx to Doc Online
  • PDF to HTML Online
  • HTML CSS Templates
  • PowerPoint Templates
  • Able2Extract Mobile Apps – Allows you to convert PDFs into editable Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, and create PDFs on your mobile device.

Share your favorite Office for iPad tips by commenting below.  Enjoy!

Beverly Michaelis [2014] All Rights Reserved.

Technology Update: Office 365 – Free CLE

untitledOn March 4, 2014 the OSB Professional Liability Fund will offer Technology Update: Office 365. This FREE seminar will provide an overview of Office 365, a cloud-based productivity service hosted by Microsoft.  Office 365 includes Microsoft Office applications that work with other services including e-mail, Web conferencing, and document sharing.  The program will include live demos and a question-and-answer period.

Date:               Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Check-in:         8:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.
Program:         9:00 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
Location:         Oregon State Bar Center – Columbia Rooms

Lesly Kenney, Technology Trainer
Savvy Training & Consulting, Inc.

Free Giveaway
Savvy Training & Consulting will be giving away one FREE full-license copy of Office 2013 Professional Plus during the program.

MCLE Credits
2.50 General/Practical Skills MCLE credits are pending. Due to the timing of this seminar, notification of CLE credits will be sent out after the seminar.

Registration Fee
There is no cost to attend this program.

How to Register
To register for this seminar, please e-mail your name and bar number to
DeAnna Shields at

REGISTRATION DEADLINE: Monday, March 3, 2014.  Space is limited.

Coping with Gmail Outages

Many lawyers rely on Gmail and Google Calendar as part of their practice management routine.  But what happens when Google experiences an outage, data corruption, or data loss?

According to Business Insider, Google’s own redundant backups ensure that you will eventually reclaim all your data.  You can rely on this or implement your own recovery plan. (Hint: implement your own plan.)

Here’s how to get started:

Establish a Backup Routine

In this older post, Lifehacker offers five simple ways to backup Gmail.  You’ll find some additional suggestions here. Since Hotmail is no more, swap out as a replacement solution.

Follow Google’s Post-Outage Advice14 - 1

After the recent Gmail debacle, Google sent the following message to all users:

Deleted Forever?

In my personal Gmail account, I didn’t experience messages being moved to Trash or Spam.  Instead, old messages that were “deleted forever” reappeared in Trash.

According to Google: “If you’ve deleted a message permanently by clicking Delete Forever in your Spam or Trash, you won’t be able to recover the message using the Gmail interface.”  Translation: You can’t recover it, but Google can.  Here is some further advice from Gmail help:

“In the past, users have reported that they are missing all of their messages as a result of unauthorized access. If your account was compromised* and you would like us to investigate whether recovery is possible, please first complete this process to secure your account and then file a report.

If you’ve moved a message to Trash, by clicking Delete, but it’s been fewer than 30 days and you haven’t permanently deleted it, follow these steps to put it back in your inbox:

  1. Sign in to Gmail.
  2. Click Trash along the left side of any Gmail page. (If you don’t see Trash along the left side of your Gmail page, go to the Labels tab in Settings, then click the show link next to the Trash label.)
  3. Locate the message you’d like to move to your inbox, and check the box next to the sender’s name.
  4. Click Move to Inbox.
Have your messages gone missing? Click here to start investigating.”
*Presumably Google would also honor this process following an e-mail outage.
Best Practices
One of the ways you can “backup” Gmail is to download messages to your Desktop E-mail Client (Outlook, Thunderbird, or Apple Mail).  But why not take it a step further?  Make your Desktop E-mail Client your primary method of interacting with messages.  Last year, I published two articles in the Oregon State Bar Bulletin on how to properly document client e-mail as part of the client’s file.  The first article focused on e-mail missteps; the follow-up on the mechanics of electronically filing e-mail.  Here is what I said about Web e-mail options like Gmail:
I find it ironic that lawyers who are leery of cloud computing don’t give their, Gmail, or Yahoo! accounts a second thought. When you leave e-mail on a web server, your confidential client data is not entirely under your control… If your provider’s server is down, or you can’t get on the Internet, then you can’t access your client information. Additionally, reliance on cloud solutions for e-mail may raise security and privacy concerns. Macs and PCs both ship with an e-mail application. Set it up to download your web mail. Doing so is absolutely free since you are using a program preloaded on your computer. Go to your web mail’s help page and search for instructions on how to download web mail to your specific program. For Google, log in to Gmail, click on Help, and click on POP under “Other Ways to Access Gmail.” Google offers instructions for setting up Apple Mail, Outlook Express, Outlook 2002-2010, Thunderbird, Windows Mail, the iPhone and other mail programs.

Google Calendar is Not Immune to Problems

Google Calendar isn’t immune to problems either.  When Gmail goes down, Google Calendar is likely to follow, which is what happened during the recent outage.  Google Calendar can also be a source of spam or scams.

Setting that aside, Google Calendar plays well with others.  So set it up to sync with your phone, tablet, or built-in desktop calendaring program.  If you establish a backup routine for Gmail, include Google Calendar.  For example, Backupify will capture all data from Google Apps.

All Rights Reserved 2014

Beverly Michaelis



Disabling “Reply to All”

This tip originally appeared in Best of TECHSHOW – Tips and Tricks courtesy of Reba Nance.

If you don’t want recipients to forward your e-mail messages or use “Reply to All,” you can disable this functionality.  Rita provided the instructions for Outlook 2007 in her original post.  I’ve added the instructions for Outlook 2010:

The Microsoft Research Team also offers a Disable Reply All add-in compatible with Outlook 2007, 2010, and 2013. 

As you’ve no doubt surmised, these solutions will only work if both the sender and the recipient are using Outlook.  Still, as The Wall Street Journal pointed out:

The “reply to all” button is among the most misused – and often reviled – pieces of office technology. At best, an accidental click can lead to an inbox-clogging chain of messages, or, at worst, a personal embarrassment…

Limiting its use is probably a good thing.

All Rights Reserved – Beverly Michaelis [2014]


The PLF is a proud promoter of the 2014 ABA TECHSHOW. Learn and network with legal technology experts from across the country, March 27-29, 2014, at the Hilton Chicago.  Save money on registration with our discount code EP1416.  Visit > News for details.

iOS 7 Tips and Tricks

I follow several technology blogs, but one of my favorites is sharechair (“everyday technology for everyday folks.”)

Starting with her Update Adventure on September 20, sharechair is posting a series of iOS 7 tips and tricks focusing on new features of Apple’s latest operating system.  Here are just a few of her very helpful posts:

If you like technology blogs, I hope you’ll follow sharechairNew visitors can learn how to quickly navigate to how tos and old posts here.  If you are a very new user of iPhones, iPads or Kindles, start here.

Encryption: Essential Best Practice or Much Ado About Nothing?

In a recent post, MASS LOMAP’s senior law practice management advisor Jared Correia shared the ABCs of encryption.  Whether you’re securing one document at a time or an entire collection, be sure to check out his recommendations.  Another excellent resource is Email Encryption for Everyone by Catherine Reach.

While Oregon practitioners are not required to comply with data protection statutes, encryption is an essential best practice when it comes to the cloud.  And perhaps in a few other contexts when the situation warrants:

Although use of electronic communications is not a per se violation of the duty of confidentiality, special precautions may be necessary in particular circumstances. For example, if information is particularly sensitive or subject to a confidentiality agreement, a lawyer may need to implement special security measures. Also, if a client requests it, a lawyer may be required to avoid, or be allowed to use, a particular type of electronic communication notwithstanding expectations of privacy in the communication method.  Helen Hierschbiel, “Odds & Ends:  Safeguarding Client Information in a Digital World,” Oregon State Bar Bulletin [July 2010].  Also See Melody Finnemore, “The Data Dilemma: Law Firms Strive to Strengthen E-Security as Potential Threats Continue to Rise,” Oregon State Bar Bulletin [October 2012] and the companion sidebar by John W. Simek and Sharon D. Nelson, “E-Security Pros Offer 15 Tips to Help Law Firms Better Protect Sensitive Data.”

Fellow Oregon practice management advisor Sheila Blackford is working on an encryption article for In Brief, the official publication of the Professional Liability Fund.  Keep an eye out in your mailbox and your inbox – the article is likely to appear late this year or in early 2014.

[Photo credit: The Lone Gunman/Conspiracy Hack]

The 7 Rules of Using Dropbox

Dropbox – what could be new?  With the announcement of a new API last month, someimages believe it may become an alternative for iCloud.  For the rest of us, Dropbox simply remains the incredibly popular file sharing and collaboration tool.

But before you dive in, or if you’re already swimming in the Dropbox pool, use some common sense.  Follow these 7 rules of using Dropbox securely and without regret:

  1. Get educated about the Cloud.
  2. Read and understand your state’s ethics opinion.
  3. Know the difference between free, pro, and business accountsFree account users have a limited 30 day archive.  Pro and Business Users can add Packrat to recover any file “as far back in time as you like.”
  4. Before sharing folders or links, review Dropbox help and learn how to unshare a file or remove a member from your business account.
  5. Establish strong user names and passwords unique to the Dropbox site.
  6. Understand Dropbox security and privacy policies …
  7. But add your own “client side” encryption to fully protect files.

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis (2013)