No Excuses on-line backup
Most lawyers don't pay enough attention to backing up their critical data. If your firm is large enough to have an IT staff, they are probably looking after that task. But for the vast majority of solo practitioners and small firms, you will need to take responsibility for assuring that you have a solid backup system in place. After all, it is your firm. If you don't do it, who will?
One component of any proper backup scheme is remote off-site storage of backed-up data. The easiest way to accomplish this is through an on-line backup service. Such services have come down in price over the years to the point where they are now affordable for any firm, including the smallest solo practice. In fact, one on-line backup service is entirely free for up to 2 GB's of data. Depending on the nature of your practice, and whether you compress your data before backing it up on-line, 2 GB may be enough to back up your practice management and time/billing/accounting databases plus all or most of your client word processing documents. If you want to back up scanned images, photographs, or video files, you will need much more space.
What got me thinking about on-line backup services this morning was an article in PC Magazine describing Mozy Remote Backup, a free on-line backup service. Mozy allows you to download their software at no charge and set up scheduled backups of files you select, or even pick continuous backups. So long as you don't exceed the 2 GB maximum, the service is free (although you do need to sign up for their weekly email newsletter and complete a short survey). If you need more space, they charge only $19.95 per year for 5 GB's, with higher prices as capacity increases.
From the information on Mozy's Web site, it appears they take all reasonable precautions to assure that your data is secure:
"When you use Mozy, your files are encrypted on your PC using 448-bit Blowfish encryption and then transferred the Mozy servers using 128-bit Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption. You have the option of using a Mozy key, or your own private key to encrypt your data. Note, that if you use your own private key, you must be very careful about not losing it, because if you do, we won't be able to help. It's impossible for us to decrypt your data when you use your own key. Most users opt to use the Mozy key, but it's up to you."
Because you have the option of using your own private key, Mozy cannot decrypt and access your data. This is an important safeguard. Just don't forget or lose your private key.
Now cost is no longer a reason not to do remote on-line backup. Those of us in the hurricane zone are well aware that "the season" starts next week. All the tape, CD, DVD, or external hard drive backups in the world won't do you any good in a Katrina-like disaster if your entire region (including your home and office) is hit. The only way to truly safeguard your data in such an emergency is through secure on-line backup.