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.

  1. 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).

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

Social Media Security Tips

Social networking sites build upon the concept of traditional social networks where you are connected to new people through people you already know. The purpose of some networking sites may be purely social, allowing users to establish friendships or romantic relationships, while others may focus on establishing business connections.

Social networking sites rely on connections and communication, so they encourage you to provide a certain amount of personal information. When deciding how much information to reveal, people may not exercise the same amount of caution as they would when meeting someone in person because

  • the internet provides a sense of anonymity
  • the lack of physical interaction provides a false sense of security
  • they tailor the information for their friends to read, forgetting that others may see it
  • they want to offer insights to impress potential friends or associates

While the majority of people using these sites do not pose a threat, malicious people may be drawn to them because of the accessibility and amount of personal information that’s available. The more information malicious people have about you, the easier it is for them to take advantage of you. Predators may form relationships online and then convince unsuspecting individuals to meet them in person. That could lead to a dangerous situation. The personal information can also be used to conduct a social engineering attack. Using information that you provide about your location, hobbies,

  • Limit the amount of personal information you post – Do not post information that would make you vulnerable, such as your address or information about your schedule or routine. If your connections post information about you, make sure the combined information is not more than you would be comfortable with strangers knowing. Also be considerate when posting information, including photos, about your connections.
  • Remember that the internet is a public resource – Only post information you are comfortable with anyone seeing. This includes information and photos in your profile and in blogs and other forums. Also, once you post information online, you can’t retract it. Even if you remove the information from a site, saved or cached versions may still exist on other people’s machines.
  • Be wary of strangers – The internet makes it easy for people to misrepresent their identities and motives. Consider limiting the people who are allowed to contact you on these sites. If you interact with people you do not know, be cautious about the amount of information you reveal or agreeing to meet them in person.
  • Be skeptical – Don’t believe everything you read online. People may post false or misleading information about various topics, including their own identities. This is not necessarily done with malicious intent; it could be unintentional, an exaggeration, or a joke. Take appropriate precautions, though, and try to verify the authenticity of any information before taking any action.
  • Evaluate your settings – Take advantage of a site’s privacy settings. The default settings for some sites may allow anyone to see your profile. You can customize your settings to restrict access to only certain people. However, there is a risk that even this private information could be exposed, so don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want the public to see. Also, be cautious when deciding which applications to enable, and check your settings to see what information the applications will be able to access.
  • Use strong passwords – Protect your account with passwords that cannot easily be guessed. If your password is compromised, someone else may be able to access your account and pretend to be you.
  • Check privacy policies – Some sites may share information such as email addresses or user preferences with other companies. This may lead to an increase in spam. Also, try to locate the policy for handling referrals to make sure that you do not unintentionally sign your friends up for spam. Some sites will continue to send email messages to anyone you refer until they join.
  • Use and maintain anti-virus software – Anti-virus software recognizes most known viruses and protects your computer against them, so you may be able to detect and remove the virus before it can do any damage. Because attackers are continually writing new viruses, it is important to keep your definitions up to date.

Source:  US Computer Readiness Team, https://www.us-cert.gov

About Afinety:  IT services for law firms provided throughout California and beyond, including Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, the Bay Area and Las Vegas.  Cloud services and document management for law firms throughout the nation.

Manage Your Email With MS Clutter Feature

 

If you’re currently using Microsoft Office 365, you probably noticed a new folder called Clutter in Outlook.  Clutter is a new feature designed to move low priority messages out of your Inbox and into their own folder, saving you time when you scan for important messages.

It works like this: The email server learns what you ignore and what you don’t.  As new email comes in, Clutter takes messages you’re most likely to ignore and moves them here.. The result is a faster, cleaner and more manageable inbox.

Once you turn it on, Clutter is automatic. The more you use it, the better it gets.

And if you find Clutter isn’t for you, you can turn it off any time.

Generally, Clutter can be addressed once per day and cleared out after a brief look. It is simple and easy to manage, much like your junk mail and deleted folders.

Current Afinety Cloud Platform (ACP)  clients now have this feature as part of MS Office 365. It’s free and requires no user intervention.

8 Tips to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft (Cyber Security)

The following tech tip is provided by the Afinety Support Department

Data breaches, unfortunately, are almost becoming a routine occurrence.  About 174 million records across the globe were exposed during 855 data breaches last year, according to Verizon’s annual data breach report, and expect that number to increase this year.  Even if your records haven’t been exposed, it may still be a good idea to follow these precautions.

  1. Check your credit reports regularly. When you get your credit reports, check for address changes, accounts, late payments and other activity that you don’t recognize for signs of possible identity theft.
  2. Watch out for medical identity theft. Read the Explanation of Benefits that you receive from your insurance company and check your medical bills to make sure they’re accurate. If you notice a doctor you’ve never visited or a procedure you didn’t receive, contact your insurer at once.
  3. Guard your social networks. If you have a blog or social accounts, such as Facebook and Twitter, use the highest security settings possible to ensure your information, posts and photos aren’t being leaked onto the Internet. Also to avoid being a victim of burglary or identity theft, don’t advertise the fact that you’re traveling.
  4. Use strong passwords. Use a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, symbols and punctuation to make your passwords harder to crack.
  5. Connect securely. Use firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your home computers and laptops. Keep all software, as well as your operating system, updated.
  6. Protect your mobile devices. Losing your mobile phone, a thumb drive or laptop can be just as bad as losing your wallet. Be sure to protect your mobile devices with passwords and encryption.
  7. Limit what you carry. You’ll have less to lose and a lower risk of identity theft if your wallet is lost or stolen. Don’t carry your Social Security card, extra credit cards or a list of your PINs and passwords.
  8. Purchase a home safe and shredder. Store documents with personal information, such as tax returns, W2s, passports and your Social Security card in a home safe.  And, if you don’t need to keep account statements, bills and other sensitive documents, shred them.

How Afinety Remote Support Works

Afinety Support is available to firms using any Windows desktop or server operating system. We can remotely support all clients – not just those that have Afinety networks.

Read more

Outstanding Client of the Quarter – Nevers, Palazzo, Packard, Wildermuth & Wynner, PC

Outstanding Client Of Fourth Quarter 2014

Every quarter, Afinety selects a client to name as the “Outstanding Client of the Quarter.” This quarter we would like to recognize Nevers, Palazzo, Packard, Wildermuth & Wynner, PC. The firm will receive a catered lunch delivered to their Westlake Village office, along with our thanks and admiration.
All of our clients are special to us and the relationships we form with them are very much a partnership. The Outstanding Client of the Quarter is selected for their professionalism as well as the benefits they receive from Afinety’s unique standardization and planned refresh approach. A professional firm like Nevers, Palazzo, Packard, Wildermuth & Wynner requires a professional computer system and this becomes part of their own clients’ perception of the firm.
We caught up with Firm administrator, Christi Baker. Christi has been with the firm for 20 years. Like many of our clients, she was referred to Afinety by a Greater Los Angeles ALA member.
“I like feeling that I can ask any question to Afinety. IT is not my area of expertise so it’s nice to be able to rely on Afinety to fulfill that need,” explained Christi. Nevers, Palazzo has been an Afinety client for several years. They decided to move from a hosted environment to a fully standardized Afinety network with proactive services designed to keep their system running with minimal interruptions. If any problems are detected by Afinety’s daily monitoring service, the issue is resolved immediately.
“When law firms have IT issues they need them resolved ASAP. Afinety provides this urgent response whenever called upon to do so,” Christi described. When asked if she would like to mention any specific services, Christi responded, “Patrick and Kip are by far the best techs! They always follow-up and make sure any issues are resolved. I would definitely recommend Afinety to others.”
About Nevers, Palazzo, Packard, Wildermuth & Wynner, PC
Nevers Palazzo provides the highest quality, innovative legal services for businesses and their owners. Since 1992, the firm has maintained this objective, enhancing and preserving their clients’ successes, while also nurturing their families and personal interests. Their practice areas include Corporate and Business Law, Mergers and Acquisitions, Employment Law, Business Litigation, Real Estate and Insurance Coverage.
For more information please visit their website: http://www.npwlaw.com
Congratulations to all of our friends at Nevers Palazzo Packard, Wildermuth & Wynner. We look forward to seeing you at the luncheon!