This is a transcript of a podcast discussing Tech Audits, what they are
and how they can help your practice.
Speaker Key: PB Phil Brown, DW
PB: Hi, it’s Phil Brown and I’m here with
David Whelan. Today we’re going to talk about tech audits.
DW: What do you think a tech audit means
for most law firms?
think for most law firms, the idea of a tech audit would be, how many computers
do I have, what kind of software do I have, and where do I store my
DW: And I think that really gets to the
nub of what a tech audit could be about. It is a way that you can think about
going through all the technology that you have and making sure that you know in
a sense what your inventory of technology is. And one of the reasons you might
want to do that is so that you’re prepared in case you need to do an upgrade or
make changes or respond to a client who asks you, can you do something that
requires a certain type of technology?
PB: And a tech audit can obviously do
more than that. It can also be useful to plan for contingencies and I think
also to make sure that you have the right policies in place so that you can use
the Internet safely and know what your staff are doing so you can properly
DW: That’s a great point. I think
policies are one of those things that we sometimes overlook or we assume that
everybody knows. But if you’re using technology with staff or if you’re in the
cloud and using things that are online, making sure that everybody knows how to
set a strong password can be a really simple policy to start off with. And then
you can also talk about the other policies that are common in firms like
appropriate email use, appropriate Internet use, and things like that.
PB: Sure – whether or not they can pay
their home cable bill from the office, whether or not they can access various
social media sites from the office, and possibly whether or not they can
actually plug in a device or media from home, like a USB key into one of the
computers in the office.
DW: Right. It’s surprising sometimes when
you do your technology audit and you go through and see where these gaps are.
The audit can really help you to understand if there is an issue that you need
to address and maybe suggest where you or how you could address it.
PB: So safe to say, I think one of the
things that should be top in the audit would be, do I have all of my policies
in place to protect my law office?
PB: Moving on from there, I briefly
mentioned contingencies, but that’s obviously one of the reasons you would look
at technology in your office. In the event that something disastrous happened
to your office – a zombie apocalypse, for instance. How would you get your
office back up and running?
DW: Well, one of the basic things you
want to make sure you have is the software and the serial numbers that you
would need in order to reinstall everything in case your computer crashed or a
particular application died. And I think that is something that is becoming a
little bit more difficult as we move forward. You may no longer buy an actual
disk with the software on it, and so if you have downloaded it or installed it
over the web, then you should really make sure you have a backup copy of that
software so that if you need to, you can install it again.
PB: So having the backup software and
copies of licenses and so on is key. I suppose the other key thing is, in the
event that your office was flooded or there was a fire, that software should be
stored somewhere safely offsite.
DW: Absolutely, yes. You don’t want to
find yourself having to recover a backup tape or restore a backup tape and find
that all the software that you need is on that backup tape. You need to have it
in a way that’s accessible so you can get up and running.
PB: Right. So some of the other things –
the standard questions I suppose – on a tech audit would be things like, is
your information stored in the cloud? Do you have onsite or offsite backups?
How often do you back up your information? Things like that.
DW: For sure. And I think one of the
things about the tech audit is not so much to identify whether you’re doing
things right or wrong, because how a practice uses technology, how a lawyer
uses technology is going to vary based on your own preferences, your practice
areas, things like that. The tech audit can really help you to highlight where
you might not have covered the bases that you wanted to cover, rather than
saying you should do it one way or another.
PB: Right. And when we are talking about
a tech audit, we are really talking about you doing an audit of your law firm
to see what your technical requirements are.
DW: Right. The other benefit of a tech
audit is that it can highlight issues that you know you have and you’ve never
really gotten around to solving, and can help you to perhaps write down or to
clarify what those problems are so that you can then identify new technology to
fill that gap.
PB: Right. And so one of the important
questions would be, what are my needs for technology in the next year or two
and are they worked into the budget?
PB: Another thing might be, how much hard
drive space have I used in the last year, two years, three years? Is there a
trend that’s showing me I’m going to need more space and to budget for it? Also, to figure out what form that is going to
be – whether it is going to be discrete hard drives in your office or whether it
is going to be transitioning into a cloud environment.
DW: Right. And sometimes the cloud looks
like a panacea for planning about technology, because essentially you are
offloading a lot of your support issues, software installation and upgrade
issues. But you still have things like maintaining your passwords and knowing
what those passwords are, because if you have a problem with your computer and
you can’t get back to your systems because you don’t know your passwords, then
you’re stuck. So you really need to look at each element, even if it looks like
it doesn’t have issues or technology components related to it to make sure that
you are covering all those bases.
PB: Right. Also, the tech audit would be a good
time to make sure that you haven’t had gaps when employees have left and you
haven’t disabled passwords or home access to computers, things like that.
DW: One of the challenges with a tech audit is
that you can really get down into the weeds. There are lots and lots of
options. For example, if you wanted to monitor changes to files on your file
server, you can download apps that will help you to do that. If you want to
monitor things like whether your email or web servers are staying up, you can
do those. If you want to find utilities that warn you when your hard drive is running
out of space, all of those things are available. So at some level you may say,
well, that’s too much detail. But you can do a high-level audit and identify
issues, and then if there is a particular issue you’re worried about or a
particular area, you can drill down further and look for tools or utilities to
help you to cover the gaps.
PB: Right. So it’s important to have policies in
place. It’s important to have a global look at your needs over the next year or
so. It is also important to know what your staff are doing and how the
technology is being used, and really important just to do a tech audit at least
once a year.
DW: I think that once a year is a great
PB: And if in doubt, you could always bring in
someone externally to have a look at your law office and what your requirements
might be in the future and how you are doing so far with respect to security
policies and hardware.
DW: For sure. And if you’re budgeting for
technology, then that can be part of your budget. You can budget for bringing
that consultant in to have them look at it. And there are lots of consultants
who would be happy to come in and talk to you about how you are using
technology. There are many who focus on the legal profession, so they would
understand issues relating to confidentiality and your other obligations.
if you have budgeted for that, it can be a great way for you to not have to worry
as much about staying up to date on the technology as you would otherwise.
PB: Right. That’s our view on tech audits. Thanks
very much, David.