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COMPLIANCE, CONVENIENCE, COMPATIBILITY

With new offices, a new CEO, new services and the first ever Private Cloud Exclusively for Law Firms of all Sizes, Abacus Removes IT Burdens, While Safeguarding Privacy

Any attorney will attest to the fact that at some point in time, you just wish you had your desktop computer with you. It has all of your preferred programs. It has your notes. It holds the answers to any question a client, colleague, or opposing counsel could ask. You know how to use it, and you know how to access the information you need.
The only problem of course, is that you don’t have it with you. So you’ll have to call the office, try to explain to a colleague how to access it, all the while wondering if you’re breaking any rules of professional conduct in having her do so. When you finally receive the information needed, the file format is incompatible with your older Mac Book or laptop, anyway. Of course, you would have had what you needed with you if you’d remembered to back everything up on your zip drive and bring it home, but alas you were in depositions all day, so the last back up was several days ago. What you really need is to be in front of your computer, and then everything would be fine. But you can’t get to your computer.
This scenario paints a portrait of exactly the type of problem that Alessandra Lezama was determined to solve for attorneys when she took the reigns as CEO of Abacus Data Systems (Abacus) in September of 2013.

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“Legal professionals are undeniably facing increasing pressure to not only adopt technology but to keep up with the rapid changing legal landscape in order to remain competitive,” Lezama says. If remaining competitive in a 24/7 work week wasn’t burden enough, the American Bar Association added additional pressure. “The ABA has mandated that it is now a matter of professional competency for legal professionals to apply technology per Model Rule 1.1 of Professional Responsibility,” she adds. Finally, she explains, there are issues of compliance and security of sensitive data being thrust on attorneys, whether solo practitioners, or managing partners of international firms.
As such, Lezama spent her first full year as CEO focusing on expanding Abacus’s portfolio of products and services, adding a third office in San Diego (home to Abacus since 1983), and finally unveiling the industry’s first turn-key Private Cloud solution, Abacus Private Cloud™, in the fall of 2014.

CONVENIENCE: SERVICE EXPANSION

In order to better serve Abacus’s more than 250,000 clients around the globe, the homegrown company recently expanded into another 5,300 square feet of office space in La Jolla. “The expansion came as the direct result of the recent growth fueled by our launch of a brand new fully integrated suite of local and virtual office solutions,” says Lezama. With 50 new work stations, this brings the total number of offices in the area to three.
“Over the past 31 years, we’ve learned that it takes much more than a software application to run and grow a successful law practice,” Lezama explains. To that end, although Abacus has been known for its own software application, AbacusLaw, and has won numerous awards for the product, Lezama saw that this alone didn’t meet the ever-changing challenges that the legal industry demands of attorneys.

As such, the new products rolled out in addition to AbacusLaw (case management time, billing and account software) include Abacus Balance, a bookkeeping service; Abacus Billing, a billing and collection service, and Professional Services whichinclude data import/migration, workflow analysis and process improvement, dynamic data capture, custom reports, workflows, firm branding, coaching, business development and more.
Yet Lezama wasn’t about to burden attorneys and law firms with complicated a la carte charges for each service provided. Instead, her first order of business was to roll out the subscription plan which gives Abacus users all upgrades, technical support and online training at a better value than ever before. That way, they would no longer have to make the decision to upgrade or purchase support each year.

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Though Abacus Data Systems’ new portfolio was poised in and of itself to make the lives of attorneys easier, Lezama knew that in order to truly partner with clients to enable their success and secure their future, they would have to raise the bar for support of their clients’ most frustrating needs. They did just that by removing the burdens of IT management, the expense of IT support and the up-front capital expenses for hardware, installation and management, with the launch of Abacus Private Cloud, the first Private Cloud for the legal industry.

APC: COMPATIBILITY AND COMPLIANCE

With the goal of freeing law firms from the headaches and stress of IT management, including updates, additional hardware and software, and network infrastructure, under Lezama’s guidance, Abacus developed and launched Abacus Private Cloud™ (APC) in September 2014. That way, firms of all sizes could focus on scaling up their practices, taking on more cases and consistently delivering best possible outcomes for their clients.
“Abacus Private Cloud addresses todays’ ever-changing threat landscape with robust security and compliance policies, including two-factor authentication, five tiers of physical network and data security, information handling and data privacy protocols in accordance with NIST standards and geographically redundant, SSAE 16-compliant, SOC 1-, 2- data centers. Piecemealed technology is no longer sufficient to remain competitive. APC can take any local IT infrastructure, desktop software application and data and weave it into a fully integrated, virtual workplace which is accessible remotely from a device supported 24 by 7 for a predictable and affordable monthly service fee,” Lezama explains.

To put it another way: attorneys can virtualize their desktop or servers and then access it from any device, from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Furthermore, APC is compatible with any existing software a firm may use. Whether Mac or PC based, attorneys using competing case management software such as Clio, Amicus Attorney, Rocket Matter, or others, will find their programs work just perfectly within Abacus Private Cloud. Other popular programs including QuickBooks, Xero, Adobe Acrobat and research tools from LexisNexis and WestLaw also run perfectly within APC.
The reasons for creating Abacus Private Cloud were many, according to Lezama. “The legal industry is currently navigating the most transformative shift ever. The pressing issues keeping legal professionals up at night are ethics and compliance, regulatory changes and information privacy. Legal entities create huge volumes of electronically stored information every day. While they struggle with how to preserve, manage and use that information effectively, the pressure to reduce spending continues to increase,” she says.
“Driven by the ABA’s recent mandates and amplified by the information explosion we are currently experiencing, legal technology is no longer an option, but a matter of professional competency. Not a single legal practitioner or organization is immune to this sweeping change and as such, legal entities of all sizes are faced with a similar array of challenges as it relates to implementing and managing legal technology,” Lezama says.

Continuing, she adds, “APC is designed to help lawyers accelerate their journey to the cloud and mitigate the risks posed by Public Cloud and SaaS applications. APC allows attorneys to offload technology burdens, including migrating existing data and applications to the cloud. This enables them to focus on taking on new cases, and delivering best possible outcomes for clients, instead of trying to solve frustrating IT issues.”
Calling Abacus Private Cloud a turnkey solution frankly underscores the vast capabilities, protections, redundancies and privacy safeguards it provides. APC includes managed antivirus and malware protection, firewall and intrusion prevention, 24/7 server monitoring, and complete IT support and management. Furthermore, this is all done within Abacus’s San Diego location, and its secondary location in Houston, TX.
“When data is uploaded to a public cloud, it may be found and stored anywhere across the globe where U.S. privacy laws may not apply,” says Julie Feller, Director of Marketing for Abacus. “All of our data centers are located within the United States so our clients will always know where their data lives and will never have to worry about a breach of compliance.” To that end, APC is fully HIPPA and PCI compliant.

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Similarly, within Abacus Private Cloud, as opposed to a Public Cloud such as Drop Box, attorneys retain 100% ownership of their data. By contrast, fine print in public cloud storage’s legal disclaimers often make clear that data stored becomes their property. APC clients retain 100% ownership of their data and have full read/write access at all times. Data stored in APC can be designated confidential for a single attorney’s access only, or stored in a corporate drive, where all verified users may conveniently access all of the data from anywhere, and from any device.
Abacus also accounted for the need for routine backing up of data. Consequently, all data in APC is automatically backed up nightly, and housed for redundancy in both San Diego, and Houston. In addition, the data centers in San Diego and Houston are both fully SOC2/SSAE16 certified with five tiers of security including network security, facility security, human security, fire suppression and detection systems. Moreover, Abacus has ventured outside of convention by “breaking out the different server roles to enhance efficiency and performance,” says Lezama. “All APC solutions run Windows Server 2012 R2, the equivalent of Windows 8.1 Professional, and use 100% solid state disks for enhanced speed reliability, performance and efficiency,” she adds. Suffice it to say, the security of data stored in APC is as close to failsafe as possible.

COST-EFFECTIVENESS OF PRIVATE CLOUD

Because APC provides attorneys with a virtual, hosted desktop service, all users can connect to their familiar applications via a remote desktop interface, from any device, and from anywhere in the world. In essence, you merely click on an icon to your virtual desktop, and then begin using your preferred applications. Though it seems like a simple step, the use of the Abacus Private Cloud can save law firms of all sizes thousands of dollars in IT support through its automatic updates, removing the need to purchase hardware, including servers. In addition to savings from not having to buy new devices, IT support costs become nil, and the Cloud is scalable for the size of the firm, with its monthly service fee depending upon the number of users and applications. Firm staffing changes allows for an increase or decrease in subscription costs.

Abacus Private Cloud also boasts and guarantees an incredible 99.999% uptime, meaning law firms won’t be wasting time, losing money, or rendered ineffective by downtime. Attorney James Farr, who wrote about his experience using APC in Law Technology Today, said of his first months using APC, “In five months of constant operation I think my virtual server was rebooted twice, resulting in a 5-10 minute outage each time, during off hours. Users are given advance notice of periodic night/weekend system downtime for maintenance upgrades. Also, tech support staff are on-call to respond to after-hours emergencies. The high level and degree of support for this product indicates to me that Abacus truly is concerned about the viability of my law practice, both now and in the long term.”
Speaking of the long term, APC’s popularity is already exploding, and Farr is just one of many who are impressed with APC. TMC’s Cloud Computing Magazine named Abacus Private Cloud the winner of the 2014 Cloud Computing Storage Excellence Award. That award is given to companies that have introduced or improved cloud storage solutions. APC was also the winner of the 2014 Cloud Computing Backup and Disaster Recovery Award, which recognizes technologies and vendors that have built cloud solutions that allow businesses small or large to remain active and productive under even the most challenging conditions, minimizing lost business opportunities.

Indeed, under Lezama’s direction the new initiatives have fueled an extraordinary 100% company growth in just one year. But for Lezama, this is only the beginning. “This new reality is compelling legal professionals to think differently and seek help from outsourced legal technology solution partners where previously they may have been reluctant to do so,” she says.
“With the recent launch of APC, and the expansion of our Service Delivery and Support teams, we remain committed to our clients by delivering Single Source Legal Technology Solutions that range from technology readiness assessments, to the design, deployment, implementation and 24/7 support of front and back end systems, paramount to their success. We look forward to continuing to offer legal professionals the turn-key technology solutions they need to accelerate their journey to the cloud and mitigate the risks posed by Public Cloud and SaaS applications, enabling them to take on additional cases while delivering premium results for their clients.”


Contact:
Abacus Data Systems
800-726-3339
www.abacuslaw.com
apc@abacuslaw.com
9191 Towne Centre Dr #180
San Diego, CA 9212213

Jennifer Hadley

Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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