December 01, 2015

TAPAs: Setting Up an Office Backup

Jeffrey Allen and Ashley Hallene

The safety net for any law practice is its data backup system. It is a simple solution and one you cannot afford do without. This month’s TAPAs column has been broken into steps instead of tips to take you through the process of setting up an office backup.

Step One: Purchase One or More External Hard Drives.

An external hard drive is a portable storage device that you can attach to your computer either through a physical connector (USB or Fire wire) or it can connect wirelessly. One backup drive represents the bare minimum (which we do not consider adequate). We recommend that you have three or four drives. In March 2015, PC Magazine rated the 10 best external hard drives. A summary of their ratings is included below:







LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2


1 TB

High per gigabyte price, but lightning fast storage.


Apricorn Aegis Padlock DT FIPS


4 TB

Rugged design with 256-bit AES built in encryption.


LaCie Fuel


1 TB

Wireless drive, drag and drop interface, allows up to five users.


Seagate Backup Plus Desktop Drive


5 TB

Great price per TB, slower than some of the pricier options.


Apricorn Aegis Padlock SSD


480 GB

Rugged, but a steep price tag for the amount of data.


G-Technology G-Speed Studio


18 TB

A huge storage capacity, but a steep price tag to match.


Monster Digital Overdrive Thunderbolt


1 TB

Lightning fast and weighing in at about the same as a smartphone, but pricey for the amount of storage you get.


SanDisk Connect Wireless Media Drive


32 GB

32 GB is likely insufficient space for this device to serve as a viable backup solution.


Seagate Backup Plus Slim


2 TB

Good price for the amount of storage space, ideal for laptops and mobile phone back up.


Western Digital My Passport Pro


4 TB

Decent cost per TB of storage, designed for Mac users.

There are pros and cons to each. The authors particularly like Seagate Backup Plus Desktop Drive, Apricorn Aegiss Padlock DT FIPS, or LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2. As a general guide, you will want to pick a hard drive that holds at least twice as much data as the computer or network you are backing up. You will want room to maintain multiple backups, and room to grow as your data grows.

Step Two: Connect Your External Hard Drive to the Computer You Wish to Back Up.

When you first plug the drive in and connect it to your computer, both Mac and Windows computers will ask you if you want to use the drive as a backup disk. Tell it that you do. In Windows, if you do not get this prompt for some reason, go to your start menu and type “backup” in the search box, then select “Backup and Restore” when the option pops up. If you don’t get the prompt on a Mac computer, go to “System Preferences > Time Machine” to set the drive up as a backup disk.

Step Three: Set Up Your Backup.

Once you have everything connected, proceed down the following path:



From Time Machine's preferences, hit "Select Backup Disk" and choose your external drive.

Once you are in the Backup and Restore window, click the “Set up backup” button and choose your external hard drive and click “Next.”

OS X will begin performing its first backup.

The next window will ask you to adjust the backup settings as you wish. When you have adjusted them to your liking, click “Next.”


On the last screen, click “Save Settings and Run Backup.”

The first backup will be a slow process, but once a full backup has been run, both Mac and Windows systems will back up in the background automatically with no further work or prompting from you.

Step Four: Consider an Online Backup.

Hard drive backups will save your data in case of a computer crash, but they won’t rescue your data in case of a fire or tornado that destroys the backups as well as the original computer We recommend that you keep at least one of the hard drive backups in a different (but secure) location from the original computer. To further protect your data, you should have a cloud backup service of some sort in place, preferably also introducing additional geographic redundancy (in other words, with the cloud server located somewhere geographically different from where you are.)

Step Five: Encrypt Your Onsite and Online Backups.

If your data exists on your external hard drive unencrypted, then anyone can take off with it and access your data. These drives are designed to be fairly portable; some of them are even ultra-portable, which can be a blessing and a curse. There are a variety of encryption options on the market today, giving you plenty to choose from. We recommend checking out any of the following to determine which works best for you:

  1. VeraCrypt—Free encryption software brought to you by Ibrix. The VeraCrypt system is based on TrueCrypt, a popular encryption software that ceased development. It is available for Windows, OS X, and Linux.
  2. 7-Zip—A free lightweight file archiver which allows you to zip, encrypt, and password protect individual files or whole folders. This is one of the authors’ go-to system for file encryption and compression. Its main drawback is the official version is available for Windows.
  3. AxCrypt—From Axantum Software. AxCrypt is also free and lauded as being simple, efficient, and easy to use.
  4. BitLocker—BitLocker is a full-disk encryption tool built in to Windows Vista and Windows 7 (Ultimate and Enterprise), and into Windows 8 (Pro and Enterprise), as well as Windows Server (2008 and later). It supports AES (128 and 256-bit) encryption.

Follow these steps and you will be up and running with a data backup in no time.


Jeffrey Allen and Ashley Hallene



Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the Graves & Allen law firm in Oakland, California, where he has practiced since 1973. He is active in the ABA (particularly in the GPSolo and Senior Lawyers Divisions), the California State Bar Association and the Alameda County Bar Association. A frequent speaker on technology topics, he is editor-in-chief of GPSolo Magazine and GPSolo Technology eReport. He serves as an editor and the technology columnist for Experience Magazine and has served on the Board of Editors of the ABA Journal. He also serves on the ABA’s Standing Committee on Information Technology. Recently, he coauthored (with Ashley Hallene) Technology Solutions for Today's Lawyer and iPad for Lawyers: The Tools You Need at Your Fingertips. In addition to being licensed as an attorney in California, he has been admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. He teaches at California State University of the East Bay. He may be reached at You may also get technology information from his blog: Ashley Hallene is a petroleum landman at Alta Mesa Holdings, LP, and practices Oil and Gas law, Title Examination, Due Diligence, Acquisitions and Oil and Gas Leasing in Houston, Texas. She maintains a diverse solo practice on the side. Ashley is the coauthor of the technology overview Making Technology Work for You (A Guide for Solo and Small Firm Attorneys) along with attorney Jeffrey Allen. She has published articles on legal technology in GPSolo Magazine, GPSolo eReport, and the TechnoLawyer Newsletter. Ashley is an active member of the American Bar Association’s General Practice Solo & Small Firm Division, ABA’s Young Lawyers Division, the Texas Young Lawyers Association, the Houston Young Lawyers Association, and the Houston Association of Petroleum Landmen. She frequently speaks in technology CLEs and is Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Technology and Reviews Department of the GPSolo eReport.