Archives for : January2013

Top 5 Ediscovery Trends of 2013

4872078284_c0f0165f7b_nThe world of eDiscovery is ever-changing, with new discoveries and research done every day. eDiscovery is a young and growing practice, so there has yet to be an industry-wide agreement to a standard, since a new law can throw companies off course. Because of the amount of ESI (electronically stored information) being produced, the development of eDiscovery technology has been a major priority. 2013 has potential to become a milestone year for the industry, with introduction of new tech and practices. Be sure to look out for some of these trends in the upcoming year

Migration To The Cloud

Cloud computing has been a major game-changer in how companies keep and manage ESI because of its versatility. The functions of cloud computing range from storage, to database management, to software hosting. This platform allows for more centralized resources to be dedicated to carrying out core processes, giving businesses the freedom to outsource the caretaking of the systems to tech experts. With cloud computing becoming less costly and more secure, you can expect more companies to migrate to  the new system in 2013.

Social Media Becomes More Important

The use of social media has had a dramatic impact on communication and online interactions since sites like Facebook and Twitter have become popular. Some organizations have started creating social media policies, in addition to a standard company policy, which act as clear guidelines for all employees to follow. The actual process of collecting and saving social media data in case of eDiscovery, however, is a process that there hasn’t been a clear solution to. Various companies have taken use of web crawlers to scan and store data from social media sites, while others rely on APIs and proxies. Expect social media eDiscovery to present more challenges in regards to privacy in the near future.

Mass-Adoption of Information Governance

Information governance is the specifications of rules and policies to promote and enforce behavior in the creation, saving, use, and deletion of information. eDiscovery and IG have become more connected than ever because of the nature of the legal system, especially now in a digital age. How information governance helps with law discovery because it’s function is to help manage ESI from inception to archival. Most major companies have already implanted a form of IG, so you should see more medium and small businesses adopting the practice.

Acceptance and Use of Technology-Assisted Review

Technology-Assisted review, also known as predictive coding, is a type of software that can be trained to filter and sort relevant and irrelevant documents. Predictive coding is a combination of machine memory, precision, and human judgment. However, there is less control over the results of technology-assisted review, so most of the cost comes from having to manually review results. Predictive coding is looking to boom in 2013, with mainstream acceptance and application in its future.

Globalization of E-Discovery

eDiscovery has become more prominent, but data privacy may laws differ in foreign countries. Worldwide corporations have been making their mark online globally, so attorneys will need to learn about the legal systems outside of home. International cases can be a problem, because working with other countries’ laws can be near impossible. Expect to see nations working toward similar eDiscovery laws, helping make an international online-presence safer for companies.

About The Author: About the Author: Brett Gold covers Hays Firm. He has worked in the legal industry for over 10 years. In his free time he enjoys catching up on the Game of Thrones book series.

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Threats to Business Continuity for SMEs

floodRisk management and business continuity are topics that get a lot of attention in the media, but one mistake that many SME leaders make is to assume that the issues being talked about don’t refer to them. Only around one third of companies with a turnover of less than $20 million have a current and recently reviewed business continuity plan in place.

The lack of continuity planning could be understandable if the reason behind it was a lack of expertise, or a concern about the expense of implementing a continuity strategy, but for many business owners that is not the case. A lot of SME owners view risk management and continuity strategies are being irrelevant to their business, assuming that only large corporations need to worry about those issues.

Complacency Could Kill Your Business

While it’s true that big companies have more complex operations and as such face a wider range of threats, there are many things that could pose a problem for a smaller business, as the past few years have shown.

The weather is becoming increasingly unpredictable. If it’s not hurricanes in the US or heavy snow falls bringing the UK to a halt, other unusual weather conditions such as heavy rains and subsequent flooding occur more often than you would expect. The London riots showed how important good security is for small business owners, and smaller issues such as power cuts, mobile phone outages and bank network problems have all caused inconvenience, if not serious problems, for people up and down the country.

As a business owner, it makes sense to think about things that could damage your business, and have a plan to minimize the disruption that you face. If you are based near a river, you might want to think about flood protection or perhaps have a plan to enable key staff to work from home. If you trade online, you should implement a good backup solution. It is up to you to work out what issues are likely to cause trouble, so that you can prioritize your resources properly.

Developing an Emergency Plan

Once you have decided what sort of issues are likely to affect your business, you need to figure out how to protect yourself from those problems (risk management), and how to minimize the disruption if things go wrong (business continuity).
A good continuity plan will cover:

  • A list that details who to contact in an emergency.
  • A chain of command; in case key business personnel are unavailable.
  • Pre-prepared statements that can be used for communicating with suppliers, customers and the media.
  • An idea of what you will do in the event of loss of business property, or a power outage – do you have an alternative place of operations? Can you use backup generators for power?
  • Instructions for employees to follow – e.g. whether they should use the company VPN and IP telephony to work from home during heavy snow.
  • Instructions for recovering backups, replacing essential equipment, and starting “recovery” procedures such as assessing damage, working with insurance companies, etc.

One area where smaller companies are lucky is that they are able to respond to changes quickly. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, IP telephony and remote working systems, you should be able to cope with most business disruptions with just a little forethought and employee training. You should view this as an important part of your business strategy, business continuity is much more than simply having a plan, you should review it every few months, and remember to update it with any new processes that come online.

About The Author: This post was written by James Harper on behalf of Maintel, who are experts in business continuity planning. James writes on subjects relating to businesses of all sizes.

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Shifting Attitudes Towards Cloud Computing and Cloud Storage

cloud2013 will be an important year for the adoption and acceptance of cloud computing within corporate IT strategies.

In the past, there was much debate over as security, reliability governance, compliance and other issues when it came to the adoption of cloud solutions. But now, the cloud computing market has matured and IT professionals are much more educated on the realities of working in the cloud.

As a result, we’re now seeing a shift where cloud-based solutions are increasingly considered to be a standard option… and many IT departments even have portions of their budgets allocated specifically to the cloud.

One area which is expected to grow especially strongly this year would be cloud storage. Companies require on-demand solutions in order to tackle challenges such as data growth, backup and disaster recovery planning.

One attractive aspect of cloud storage has to do with the fact that it can be implemented incrementally. Low-priority storage can be outsourced first in order to test the concept, and then it can be gradually expanded as the concept becomes more proven.

TwinStrata recently conducted a market survey in order to evaluate the attitudes and experiences of the IT market. The study focused on groups which were considered to be “cloud friendly”, and provide special insight into the future of the cloud computing market… with a special focus on cloud storage.

Below are some of their most interesting findings:

  • 80% of users who’ve implemented cloud storage claim that their recovery times are under 24 hours, and 25% claimed that recovery was nearly instant.
  • Only one sixth of non-users of cloud storage claimed that disaster recovery from cloud data would take over a week.
  • Over 90% claimed that they either currently use cloud storage, or have plans to implement cloud storage at a future date. Although IaaS and SaaS currently have the greatest saturation, cloud storage is considered the greatest source of future implementations.
  • About two in three respondents claimed that the greatest value in cloud storage came from its ease of management and its ability to scale quickly.
  • Of users who have already implemented cloud storage, 68% indicated data protection as being significant benefit. However, this sentiment was only reflected in 26% of non-users of cloud storage.
  • Of those who planned to implement cloud storage in the future, over two thirds indicated that data growth was a challenge.

Although the sample group was somewhat biased towards cloud computing, and might be unrepresentative of the IT sector as a whole, this definitely shows some interesting trends emerging within the cloud computing space within the near future.

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HOW CLOUD COMPUTING WORKS; THE INS AND OUTS OF HOW THE CLOUD IS PUT TOGETHER

The concept is easy, though the execution is another story. In simple terms, you are using the internet to connect to a provider’s database or programming. You rent these services on a per use or subscription basis, and can access them at any time.

And, if you are dealing with a good provider, that should be about what you see. But you should know what is going on behind the scenes, especially if you are going to be using a cloud server for business and personal reasons. You are sharing what you are doing and your information with this service and that is not a step that should be taken lightly.

The hosting service has the ability to offer programs, storage, database services and other applications from their servers. You are simply logging into those systems so that you can use them from an internet connection. If you are using an illustrating software suite, for instance, instead of having the program on the computer, the program is on their computer and you are simply accessing it. Work is saved both locally and on the cloud, at least in most instances.

The database and data storage are set up the same way. One of the big advantages of doing it like this is mobile accessibility. This gives a company a way to make layers of information available to separate parts of the company or to people that are out of the office. If an important file is completed while the project specialist is on the plane, he still has instant access to the file when it is needed – no need to email it or get someone at the company to do something with it, it is simply there for who needs it.

The way you pay is also going to depend on exactly what you are doing with the cloud; if it is just a storage and accessibility method, then a subscription service is going to be the norm. If, on the other hand you need access to specific programs, like the illustration program above, it may be better to rent the program on a per use basis, since once you are done with the current project or task it may be months or longer before you need that program again.

Most providers are like Macquarie Telecom; they provide scalable layers of service and ability depending on your exact needs. Utility programs like database programs, spreadsheets and other specialty software that are needed on a more regular basis can be folded into a subscription service.

That adaptability and scalability is one of the things that make cloud computing so powerful, and there are different permutations of the cloud that are specifically geared towards different business needs. The one described here is known as SaaS, or Software as a Service.

There is also Platform as a Service, Network as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service and more. IaaS, or Infrastructure as a Service is one of the most basic uses of the cloud, and can include simpler software, storage and analysis features and more.

Depending on exactly what you need, the cloud service providers will be able to offer you a custom suite of services if one of their packages does not fit your needs. This should give you a basic understanding of how these services are put together and how they operate. This information should help you as you talk to a professional to see whether these services can be of use to you.

Most Important US Laws That Dictate Disclosure of Data Stored In The Cloud

The US government’s recent actions against Megaupload and its founder Kim Dotcom have stirred much debate around the legalities of storing sensitive information in the cloud. Since the US is the hub of activity within the cloud technology space, I thought it might be a good idea to outline some of the most important legislations which dictate your digital rights on US servers.

Court-Ordered Search Warrants

If police can demonstrate to a judge that they have probable cause that a crime has been committed using the cloud provider’s hardware, they can obtain a warrant allowing them to search for specific pieced of information in specific locations. The scope of these searches are strictly limited to the case in question, and to the items outlined in the warrant.

Court Subpoena

In this instance, a court could order the cloud provider or their client to provide specific documents or physical evidence. Unlike with a search warrant, the subject of the subpoena will have the option of fighting the subpoena in court.

Court subpoenas are often used as a weapon when lawyers suspect that the other party’s electronic discovery process will be very costly, or if they suspect that the other party hasn’t properly adhered to their data retention obligations.

Patriot Act Court Order

The FBI may ask a judge to issue an order allowing them to seize any tangible information sources that might relate to a terrorism investigation. Unlike a search warrant, the agency conducting the search does not have to provide reasonable cause or define exactly what it is they’re looking for.

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)

HIPAA helps place restrictions on the duplication, protection, creation, destruction and disclosure of ensure that sensitive patient healthcare information. HIPAA applies to all medical patient information, regardless of how it’s stored. And it also gives patients access to their healthcare information, and control over how it is used.

FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act)

This act lays out the guidelines for the handling of data by federal agencies, and any contractors or organizations that handle data on behalf of the Federal government. Any cloud providers chosen by these organisations should be in compliance with the rules outlined in FISMA.

GLBA (Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act)

This act was created to protect customer privacy when working with financial institutions. Although this law places restriction on the use and sharing of customer information, it’s still not very clear whether or not a cloud service provider qualifies as an unauthorized third-party under this definition.

(ECPA) Electronic Communications Privacy Act

The ECPA gives clients the right to sue for damages if the cloud provider discloses their private data without consent. However, there have been a number of cases where a court has overruled the protection afforded under this act and forced the provider to disclose information that was relative to a case. (Although these have been rare, and usually related to piracy) Another point to consider is that the protection provided under this act is only as strong as the cloud provider’s user agreement. So make sure to read the fine print.

The Fifth Amendment

Currently, there is a hot debate over whether or not computer owners and system administrators are allowed to refuse disclosure of encryption keys and credentials when faced with a lawful order to disclose such information. The logic behind this approach is that – in the United States – anyone suspected of a crime has the constitutional right not to incriminate themselves.

This is certainly an interesting debate, and the precedents which are set in these cases will have a huge impact on the future of cloud computing.

Of course, this is neither legal advice nor a comprehensive list. But it should at least serve as a good basis to help in starting to ask the right questions and open a deeper dialogue into the debate.

Online Backup & Recovery Predictions for 2013

Our friends at Zetta have just released their list of industry predictions for the coming year. This is an in-depth, well-written analysis that touches many areas which are of primary concern amongst SMBs. Definitely worth checking out.

Click here to view Zetta’s Online Backup & Recovery Predictions for 2013

Benefits of Cloud Contact Centre Solutions for 2013

callcenterIt is a truth universally acknowledged that this year is set to be the year of the Cloud – the year in which business completes the task of moving its essential IT and telecoms applications to the web. 2012 was a harbinger of this trend, with business and IT blogs buzzing about the rising phenomenon of cloud computing, and cloud service providers becoming an established part of the business services sector. There are now many companies offering cloud services, and “virtual” contact centres are a big part of this. Here’s a brief breakdown of why moving your call centres into the cloud will give your business a boost:

Cost savings

IT infrastructure is an expensive business, and the major benefit of cloud computing in general is that it removes much of the associated costs, by spiriting them away and making them the providers’ problem. Contact centres are especially expensive to set up and maintain due to their innate complexity and the issue of providing dedicated call centre staff to field queries, which means that until the advent of the cloud, most small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have had to go without. Not any more. With no need to own or operate any hardware or software itself, the SME is able to focus entirely on customer service.

Smarter call centres

Cloud contact centres bring with them a range of technological innovations that make customer care more efficient than ever before. Suites of services offered by the NewVoiceMedia cloud contact centre, for instance, allow for features such as voice-activated services and billing, personalised call responses and customer data analytics, making your customers happier and your business run more smoothly. They can also be easily and inexpensively upgraded and updated to allow for the many new applications and refinements that 2013 and beyond is set to bring.

Adaptable to life’s ups and downs

By ‘ups and downs’, we mean the need to scale your business requirements up or down as demand or opportunity arises. Unlike traditional contact centres, there’s no inflexible buildings to maintain – or expand at great expense – and no need to acquire pricy additional infrastructure if demand increases.

Recent research undertaken by OnePoll found that 73% of British business either operate the majority of their applications in the cloud, or are planning to during 2013. It certainly makes sense to be among them.

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