5 Red Flags in your Cloud Partner

Now that you’ve asked all of the right questions of your prospective cloud partners (Questions to Ask – Part 1, Questions to Ask – Part 2), you’re ready to go back to your leadership team and make recommendations, right?! As you comb through your partner’s answers, here are some red flags that may indicate they’re not the right partner for your organization:

  1. They ask you to sign a long-term contract without termination for convenience.A reputable cloud provider should include a reasonable exit clause, sometimes called “termination for convenience.” This clause stipulates that your organization can terminate the contract at any time for any reason if you are unsatisfied.

  2. They have limited or no experience working with legal practices.Legal organizations have unique needs and require specialized support and services. Cloud providers that haven’t worked in legal likely do not have experience working with your applications, such as ProLaw or iManage. They have experience supporting customers but may not understand the urgent response times needed by firms. They also may not sign Business Associate Agreements (BAA).

  3. They are a young company.A new cloud provider may be able to meet all your needs, but without having a background in hosting for organizations similar to yours, it’s best to proceed with caution. It becomes even more important for you to understand how many team members the organization is made up of, how they manage their infrastructure, what support is provided, etc. Small, start-up cloud providers present risk in employee turnover and inexperience.

  4. They don’t have references similar to your practice.References are extremely valuable when choosing a cloud provider. They give you a good look at what it will be like to be a client of the provider. If the cloud provider has any hesitation in providing client references or testimonials, you may need to reconsider.

  5. They don’t ask about your desired business outcomes.Cloud providers should be focusing on what you want to get out of your IT infrastructure, ultimately asking what your desirable business outcomes are. Your cloud experience will be most successful when you and your service partner understand the overarching goals of the practice.

Choosing a cloud partner may be the most important decision your organization makes this year. The security of your data, the experience of your users, and the productivity of your firm depends on it. Choose wisely.

7 More Questions to Ask a Prospective Cloud Partner to Ensure Project Success

Last week, we explored seven questions to ask your prospective cloud providers as you’re doing your due diligence for your leadership team.

This week, we’re going to explore seven more questions. Ensuring you ask the right questions will help ensure your project is a success. Next week, watch for our blog on red flags to watch for in your cloud provider search.

  1. How can we minimize disruptions to our firm as our applications are migrated to your platform?

    It’s important to know that the transition to a cloud provider will go smoothly. Make sure the cloud provider has experience migrating firms like yours and can perform the migration with minimal disruption to your practice. Discuss the migration experience with references, if possible.A successful migration involves a knowledgeable, experienced cloud provider and a well-prepared firm. When the cloud provider and firm understand the overarching business objectives of the project, they can operate from the same playbook and communicate effectively throughout the process.
  2. How do you calculate your fees? What costs are outside the scope of your cloud services?

    Costs are calculated differently for cloud providers, but it’s important to understand how you will be charged. Is it based on number of users, applications, storage, or server resources?You will also want to understand what costs fall outside of the scope of your cloud services so you can budget accordingly. Some providers consider events like emergency support, software upgrades, or local network support as out-of-scope while other providers provide these services within their cloud offering.
  3. Describe your company’s approach to support. Will we have a dedicated support team that is familiar with our applications and environment?Businesses need quick, easy access to support when issues arise. Your cloud provider should keep your users productive and focused on their primary duty of serving clients. Support hours and levels of service should be outlined in the SLA so you understand what’s in-scope.It’s ideal for your cloud provider to offer a dedicated support team for your organization. This may mean that there are focused support teams dedicated to specific clients based on what vertical they’re in. Dedicated support teams allow your firm to experience more personal connections with the support staff, more specialized service, and shorter wait times.
  4. Do you have a Service Level Agreement (SLA) designed to meet your unique needs?Data availability is vital to law firms. A hosting provider’s Service Level Agreement (SLA) should detail the organization’s availability standards, response times, and support services. What is the average response time? Is any financial credit offered if availability drops below the threshold outlined? When are the provider’s maintenance windows and can these be customized for my firm? Be sure to carefully read the SLA and ask questions in any areas needing additional clarification.Negotiating an SLA is possible with the right cloud provider and should be one of the first terms discussed during your cloud evaluation process. Small details in your SLA can mean a better experience for your users, more value for your practice’s budget, and a cloud environment that is customized for your practice’s unique needs.
  5. Will our data be stored in a private cloud environment? Do you use any public cloud partners to deliver your cloud services?Take the time to understand where your data will be stored – a private or public cloud.The public cloud shares infrastructure resources across many types of clients, industries, and workloads. Some cloud providers partner with hyper-scale clouds like Amazon Web Services or Azure. If the provider uses the public cloud, ask questions about the public services to determine and assess the security of your data.Providers delivering a private cloud, where the IT infrastructure is dedicated to one organization, deliver benefits including enhanced security and performance as well as a high degree of flexibility and customization. These benefits lead organizations to choose private cloud platforms over the cookie-cutter nature of the public cloud.
  6. What kind of user training or orientation do you provide post-migration?Once your environment has migrated, users need to understand how to access the applications they use. Ask the cloud provider what training will be provided and what training is out of scope.
  7. Can you provide references from 2-3 practices of similar size or specialty to my organization?Speaking with references is the most effective way to understand how the cloud provider is performing. Are they keeping other organizations’ data secure? Are they providing the support they expected? Do they have knowledgeable staff? References offer valuable, candid feedback.If there is a specific application that you plan to host with the cloud provider, ask to speak to references running the same application.

If you have questions about evaluating cloud partners or what your organization could be like in a cloud environment, feel free to schedule a consultation with our team of cloud experts.

Stepping Up Your Cyber Security Game – Protecting Your Assets

Originally published June 26, 2020, by Bill Sorenson, VP of Product, at www.elite.com.


Learning from the COVID-19 Impact

We’ve seen a dramatic change over the last four months in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. One of the significant places that have impacted most firms is the work-at-home requirements placed across the country. Some firms were able to respond quickly, and others struggled for a significant time to enable their employees to work. One of the large impacts has been the increased risk exposure associated with cybersecurity. How you handle this impacts your firm’s value, both overall as well as in the marketplace.

Risk Management at the Heart: Protecting Your Assets

It all gets back to risk. In our industry, most of what we do and the decisions we make are related to risk and risk mitigation. When we look at cybersecurity, there’s no difference. Expanding your risk footprint with work-at-home employees dramatically increased your risk. The question is, is it short-term or not?

  • Running Your Technical Environment: First let’s look at your technical environment and, as an example, how you run 3E® or ProLaw® and your other applications. You may run it internally with your own equipment, in a computer center somewhere else, or in the public cloud. Each implementation has different risks and productivity considerations for your employees and the firm. For the firms that have run it and the rest of their applications in the cloud, the move to work-at-home was simple. They were already used to the idea that their employees could work from anywhere. For the other firms, the move to work-at-home created a hectic environment with a struggle to get everyone working at the same time, the performance was horrible, and security became an immediate concern.
  • Cybersecurity as a Base: When we look at cybersecurity and the extension of a firm’s environment to each employees’ home, many things raise red flags. First, simply locking down employees’ technology to restrict confidential information exposure has been key. Additionally, in many situations, the computers people use at home are shared. This dramatically increases the exposure to the firm. By implementing key controls around the devices that employees use, firms have been able to reduce this risk exposure quickly. Make sure you’ve reviewed the risks specific to your firm and have implemented controls to keep your firm’s data secure.
  • Coming to Grips with Reality: Going forward, there will now be an increased focus on disaster recovery, business continuity, and cybersecurity. Focusing on those protections related to your employees and the remote workforce will significantly level-up your overall security. In a time when there is a dramatic focus on hacking each of your employees, there is no time to waste to secure your environment.

 

Protections Needed Now

  • Work-at-Home: You need to implement technical controls on each user’s device and put in place additional policies and procedures around work-at-home, bring your own device, and possibly, confidential information exposure.
  • Disaster Recovery / Business Continuity: You need to review your disaster recovery and business continuity plans and look at how they were implemented with COVID-19 and adjust.
  • The Human Element: Training, training, training. It is time to step up and help your employees protect you. If you haven’t already rolled out cybersecurity training, it’s time to do that now. And this includes partners. Partners are really the focus of phishing attempts and, many times, are greenfield for hackers. By training employees, you increase the sentries that are protecting the firm.
  • Direction to the Cloud: One thing COVID-19 has shown us is that firms that had already adopted the cloud were well prepared. They made those decisions based on cybersecurity, costs, and productivity gains for the firm. It is time for you to look at that as an adoption rather than a review.  By choosing Amazon® AWS, or Microsoft® Azure®, you’re able to leverage the best in the world at costs you can afford. The key piece is finding a partner who’s focused on your industry.

 

The Transition Back

As the pandemic progresses and different states begin to transition industries back to a more normal work life, it’ll be time for you to look at transitioning your firm back. As you’re making that decision, take into account the lessons you’ve learned during the pandemic. Key takeaways from this article for you and your core partners to review include:

  • Staffing Lessons: How did our staff respond, and how did we help them?
  • Client Lessons: Were we able to provide what our clients needed and expand our services in response to the pandemic? If not, could we have?
  • Technical Lessons: Were we prepared for this emergency? Did we use our disaster recovery plan, or did we take it for granted? Do we need more focus on moving to the cloud now to protect us from this type of situation going forward?
  • Firm Lessons: Was our mindset one of quick response and focus on where we could help, or was it reactive and overwhelming? Would we be better served by spending time walking through realistic examples and responses? Can we be better prepared?

Set up some time with the firm leaders and take the time needed to go through your new normal.  As you are reviewing the past months, be open to input, criticism, new methods, and ideas from all levels. Many people have been impacted in several different manners. Understand how you can step forward and help your partners, staff, and your clients now and in the future.

Afinety and Business Continuity During COVID-19

Greetings clients and industry colleagues,

Earlier this year, I stepped into the role of CEO, eager to work with this incredible company to achieve growth, positive change, and industry-leading technology. Of course, none of us could have seen the impact of COVID-19 that would come only a couple of months in.

As most businesses scramble adjusting to the new work/life environment, I’ve been incredibly impressed with how our team members have handled both their own transition to COVID-life and how they’ve stepped up and helped our clients, almost all of whom are essential workers.

We want businesses to know that we hear you, we see you, we understand the challenges you’re going through, and we are here to help you weather this storm.

Afinety serves the Legal market, and we see the impact, struggle, and dedication of these essential workers every day. We are grateful for them, and we promise we will continue serving you through this each day by providing a cloud-based workspace that is reliable, performant, secure, and optimized for remote access, allowing essential workers the ability to continue being productive and effective, anytime, anywhere.

How Afinety Can Help

This COVID change is difficult, but truly, we can lessen the burden. Our services offer benefits that have never been more needed than now.

  1. Remote access – Keep your employees productive at this most critical time.
  2. Scalable – Easily and affordably scale your IT environment based on your organization’s needs.
  3. Security – You have enough on your plate, let us ensure your employees are adequately protected from the growing threat of cyber-attacks.
  4. Fully-managed – We’re here to support you through this. Our talented team of cloud experts is ready and waiting to serve you and your team during this time – and always.
  5. Performance – No waiting on slowness or downtime, your employees need better given that they are connecting remotely. Our cloud solutions are optimized to perform across a broad spectrum of internet connections.

I want you to know, we’re not exploiting these benefits because of COVID. These have always been, and will always be, the benefits of Afinety’s cloud solutions.

Additionally, I want to provide a few resources for businesses that may help them navigate this ever-changing environment. While we cannot stay up to date on every program available, these resources do a great job of laying out the options.

Resources for Small Business

  1. COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan. (Application)
  2. SBA Paycheck Protection Program (Details)
  3. Unemployment Insurance Shared Work Program (Details)
  4. Federal Small Business Stimulus Aid Programs (Details)

Afinety has a proven track record of unlocking the benefits of cloud-based IT solutions for Healthcare, Financial Services, and Legal organizations. Our team is second to none, and our process has been proven over two decades. Resilient IT infrastructure is more vital now than ever, and we’re ready to serve you.

For more information about making the cloud work for your organization, connect with one of our Cloud Experts at 818-708-8455 x3.

We’re in this together,

Sumeet Sabharwal
CEO