TOP SECRET – Do NOT Read!
Hey, we told you not to read this! Are you gone?
Ok, now that everyone has left, we can discuss this top-secret information…
B&B’s Knowledge Management Department is leading the industry developing cutting-edge technological advances to benefit our clients and B&B’s own staff, attorneys, and managers in ways that heretofore were unimaginable.
Do you start to fall asleep even at the mere mention of “technology”? Are you “too old” for all that “technobabble”?
Not only will the advances planned at B&B for 2010 be beneficial to you; they can be easily understood by even the most novice of technology users. 1 Thus, beginning with this issue of B&B’s BLOG, Mr. Eric Hunter will bring us all up to speed on the latest and greatest technology advances, and, most importantly, show us how this will make our work easier, more efficient, and less expensive!
— Don Barthel.
Eric, take it away…
Welcome to the maiden voyage of B&B’s “TOP SECRET—Do NOT Read!” This is the first of many articles slated to appear in B&B’s BLOG dealing with the future (read: “now”) of communication. Are computers involved? Yes. The internet? Yes. Lots of technology. Yes….BUT don’t let that turn you off. The advances planned for B&B for the near- and short-term do deal with “technology”, BUT not that icky, scary, mind-numbing stuff of the past. It’s 2010, folks. If, at this late date, the technological “advances” and “improvements” are not simple and easy to use, then they ain’t improvements at all.
The Future of Communication (and Why You Should Care)
As part of B&B’s ongoing efforts to improve quality, increase efficiency, and decrease client costs, the firm’s Knowledge Management Department is exploring and implementing communications systems that, just a few months ago, would have sounded more like science fiction.
Twenty years ago, typewriters dominated the legal world of communication. Typos, BIC Wite-Out©, and rewrites were the bane of every secretary. Need that document right away? Your options were largely limited to “snail mail” (a phrase that had yet be invented), overnight delivery and—increasingly—faxes with unmanageable, self-destructing paper.
As the years wore on, email with and without attachments, scanning, cell phones, and computers with their own printers began to litter the landscape. At this point, that’s probably very much what your office looks like, right?
Can it get any better?
Much! And B&B is leading the way!
“To infinity … and beyond!” 2 just might be the rallying cry for B&B’s Knowledge Management (KM) Department 3 as B&B sets the industry standard in information sharing.
What’s so “cutting edge” about B&B’s KM Department?
Look up….way up!
B&B Has Its “Head In the Clouds”
No longer are the information repositories of B&B’s various departments (legal, ratings service, administrative, financial, etc.) separate and distinct. Rather, the KM Department is now able to bring these warehouses of information (both figurative and literal) together and make them readily accessible such that, with proper authorization/clearance, designated personnel can readily access any/all needed electronically stored data at the touch of button. In short, email, documents, dictation—virtually any form of communication—will all become synonymous and, more importantly, interchangeable from the perspective of accessibility. Thus, we can and will dramatically increase efficiency and decrease the time and cost otherwise associated with data retrieval.
Imagine! An adjuster needing information about a file calls the managing attorney. No longer does that manager need to retrieve and review the physical file for the latest correspondence, request billing information from the Financial Department, and/or go elsewhere to research the adjuster’s concerns. Rather, the managing attorney simply turns to his/her laptop at the office (or anywhere on the road with internet connection), pushes a few buttons, and immediately accesses the file, the most recent correspondence, the current and past billings, etc. In a matter of minutes, virtually any question relating to the file’s handling can be researched and answered!
How are these research miracles possible?
Have you heard of “cloud computing”? It involves converting and hosting all of your company’s applications (Outlook, Word, WordPerfect, PowerPoint, etc.) and all of your data (including anything you input, from letters, files, medical reports, email correspondence, and scanned documents to pictures, video, internet, intranet, blogging, social networking, and dictation) offsite in the…well…in the “clouds.” In short, everything you can see, input, or extract from your computer is somewhere far, far away from you and your computer screen.
Why is this a good thing?
How many expensive servers does your employer have? Better yet, how often do those servers “crash,” leaving you searching to find lost data (including that letter that must go out “yesterday”) and twiddling your thumbs as you consider whether your oncoming nervous breakdown will be considered AOE/COE? How often have your “tech guys” or “tech gals” had to drop everything and rush across the office, across town, or across the state in hopes of saving the day….tomorrow or next week? These on-site servers, crashes, and psychiatric claims will soon become a thing of the past at B&B.
We’re dumping our servers (want to buy some…cheap?)!
All data and applications are moving to the “clouds” on supersized, super efficient, super reliable servers located across the state, the nation, and the world. Why is this a good thing? Don’t we want to be able to control our own data and protect it from evil?
Great questions…and “cloud computing” has fantastic answers:
- “Super Size It”: How much of my data can and should be stored “in the clouds”?
All of it! By employing the servers owned by international, Fortune 100 companies, small and mid-sized companies such as B&B can access the technological advances of cutting edge equipment that would otherwise be far beyond our pocketbook’s capacity. The potential cost-savings are—in a word—SUPER!
- Safety From Disaster:
By using cloud technology offsite, doesn’t B&B expose its privileged data (including your attorney-client communications) to prying eyes? Absolutely not. By taking advantage of a multitude of servers at various locations, we achieve an economical back-up program (the data is duplicated in multiple locations so if/when the servers in California slide into the ocean, there will be servers on the other side of the country…or the world…standing ready and fully accessible with copies of all the “lost” data), as well as added security. Today your high priority letter itemizing the strengths and weaknesses of your multimillion dollar lawsuit is sitting on some server just waiting to be crash. Tomorrow B&B’s cloud computing will “divide and conquer” disaster recovery by splitting your letter-and all other data-into many, many parts and storing it in pieces on various servers around the world.
- Where do I have to go to access my files and other data that B&B stores “in the clouds”?
Nowhere! You, the client (with proper security authorization), your attorney, your attorney’s supervisor, secretary, etc., can all access your data from…EVERYWHERE! If you want to read a letter on your computer right now, you probably need either a hard copy or your computer (with its hard drive) in front of you, right? Not with cloud computing! Because your data is stored “in the clouds,” you can access your data from anywhere in the world where you have internet access and any type mobile device (computer, laptop, netbook, cell phone…anything that allows connection with internet). Starbucks here we come!
- Computer? Laptop? Netbook? Cell phone? What if I—or my attorney—lose the accessing device? Have we lost the file?
Absolutely not! The file (and any other related data) is stored elsewhere “in the clouds.” The accessing device (computer, laptop, etc.) is nothing more than that: an accessing device. As such, it can be lost, destroyed, replaced or stolen without losing a single kilobyte of your information.
- Did you say “stolen”? Does this mean that when we lose a cell phone (or computer, etc), we’ve just given the keys to all our privileged information to a thief?
Heck no! First, there is no information on the accessing device (it’s all “in the clouds”). Moreover, prying eyes cannot access your cloud-based data, even if they have “borrowed” your access device. Why? Security authentication— no different from the safety controls your bank uses to safeguard your cash—guarantees your data is safe from the prying eyes of criminals! These security codes and passwords can be regularly updated and changed at a moment’s notice when necessary to accommodate potential security challenges, such as personnel changes, new and novel security issues, and the like.
- My file contains HUGE documents, endless subpoenaed records, and reams of other documents. How long is it going to take to download all this from the clouds each time I need it?
Don’t blink! No longer than it currently takes to access documents from your traditional computer….and in many cases a lot faster than that! Same goes for uploading information and data to the clouds.
- How do I organize and search through all this data?
Organizing it? NOT a problem! Have you ever performed a Google© search? How long did it take? Not very! If you can find the information you’re looking for when you use Google, Yahoo, Bing, or your favorite search engine (who can’t?), you’ll be able to access all the information you, your co-workers and attorneys store for you in the clouds.
Eric Hunter is Director of Knowledge Management at Bradford & Barthel, LLP.
Do you have questions? Concerns? Comments? Please email any thoughts you have relating to communication advances to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be happy to address your questions and develop future BLOG articles on topics of interest to you.
1 Some have defined “technology” as “anything that was invented after you were born.” www.urban.dictionary.com, 1/6/10
2 When you steal, steal from the best. You may recognize this phrase as the oft repeated catchphrase of Buzz Lightyear, the self-important Star Commander in Disney’s hit film, “Toy Story.”
3 It ain’t “IT” or “Tech” anymore. Those computer geeks who spoke in “computerese” that few of us real folks could understand are a dying breed, replaced by Knowledge Management Professionals who—with their advanced technology know-how—coordinate and direct strategic growth at cutting edge businesses like B&B in the areas of competitive intelligence, social technology, and really cool gizmos. It’s all about the knowledge.
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