Remote Access Tools and Tips for Solo and Small Firm Lawyers
Many lawyers today are road warriors. If their entire office is not on their laptop, a good chunk of it is—and the rest is accessible through remote-access tools. In The 2009 Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide: Critical Decisions Made Simple , the authors offer advice on how you, too, can stay in touch with the office from afar.
Some lawyers have discarded workstations entirely, using only their laptops and a docking station at the office. Others have both a workstation and a laptop. The popularity of laptops has zoomed to a point where the lawyer without a laptop is a relative rarity. Our new mobile lawyers are now equipped with technologies that allow them to be as productive when on the road as they are in the office, minimizing downtime and keeping those billable hours up! There is a strong expectation by many clients and colleagues that lawyers will be constantly accessible wherever they may be (even, sadly, on vacation). So how do you stay in touch with the office from afar?
Virtual-Private Networking (VPN) A VPN connection is a secure communications network tunneled through another network, such as the Internet. The VPN connection allows network users to connect to their office when working remotely. The communications tunnel allows the data traffic between the remote user and the office network to be encrypted, to maintain the security of the information as it is passed back and forth. This is extremely important for law firms when their lawyers are working on client files while away from the office. Best of all, the VPN service software is included with Microsoft’s server operating systems and the VPN client software is included with Microsoft 2000, XP and Vista operating systems.
The typical lawyer is likely to be dumbfounded when confronted with setting up a VPN, so this is best left to your IT consultant. However, it is not terribly expensive and it offers terrific security for your data. The greatest advantage of VPNs is that they are multiuser, whereas other options are one-on-one solutions.
GoToMyPC GoToMyPC is a remote connection service that allows you to connect to your work computer when you are away from the office. This service is a great alternative if you’re a solo practitioner or if your law firm can’t set up a VPN-type connection for remote users (if you don’t have a server). Like a VPN connection, data communications between the client and the host are encrypted and secured. To connect to your work computer, software must be installed and running on the host machine (the computer you wish to connect to) and both the client and the host computers must have Internet access. The GoToMyPC Web site maintains contact with the host computer so the host’s IP address is always known. This is critical—the solution works even if the host’s computer has a dynamic Internet connection that will not remain constant. No configuration to the company firewall will need to be made to get GoToMyPC up and running.
GoToMyPC costs about $180 per year for one computer license and will need to be renewed yearly. There is no limitation on how often you may connect to your host computer, and you are not limited regarding from which client machine you have to connect. The software requires little setup and configuration and can be purchased online from GoToMyPC at www.gotomypc.com. This software is more costly than its competitors, so check out all of your
Excerpted with permission from The 2009 Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide: Critical Decisions Made Simple (ABA, 2009), www.ababooks.org.
available options before selecting which remote-access solution to purchase.
LogMeIn LogMeIn Pro is a remote access solution that is very similar to GoToMyPC. The software works the same way, with the service provider maintaining the IP addresses of host computers. This is a good solution for those firms with dynamic IP addresses. The service allows you to gain seamless and total access to your office PC from any computer with an Internet connection. To connect, users log into the LogMeIn Web site and the connection to their host computer is made automatically. Some of the features include remote printing, the ability to transfer fi les between the connected computers and the ability to map network drives to your local computer. Just like GoToMyPC, this service is extremely secure, using 128-to-256 bit SSL end-to-end encryption. When compared to GoToMyPC, this remote-access solution costs much less. LogMeIn Pro costs $69.95 per year for one computer license, and the service subscription will need to be renewed annually. This software can be purchased online from LogMeIn’s Web site at www.logmein.com. We strongly recommend the use of this product for remote accessibility.
Symantec pcAnywhere Symantec pcAnywhere version 12.1 is similar to GoToMyPC, with one exception. When using pcAnywhere, you must know the host’s IP address or host name in order to connect to the host computer. There is not a central database or Web site that monitors and maintains the host computer’s current address. Symantec pcAnywhere works in scenarios where the host computer maintains a static IP address and will not work when the IP address is dynamically assigned. The software has many configuration options and can be set up to use encryption, file sharing and remote printing. pcAnywhere requires more setup and configuration than GoToMyPC does, and will require an administrator to set up port forwarding through the host’s network router so the client’s communications can reach the destination host computer.
A license for Symantec pcAnywhere can be purchased from Symantec’s site at www.symantec.com/norton/symantec-pcanywhere or from your local electronic retail store for about $200. This software is a one-time purchase, not a yearly subscription, although it may need to be upgraded as updates to the software are released. The major disadvantages to using pcAnywhere are the cost, the requirement for a static IP address and the need to install software on both ends of the communication stream. This means you won’t be able to connect from the Internet café in Jamaica since you probably didn’t bring your pcAnywhere CD.
Tech Tips for Road Trips
We’ve burned ourselves more than once by being ill-prepared. So here are some great tips to consider before heading out on a trip. — S.N., J.S. & M.M.
PACK A SURGE PROTECTOR. You never know when you will need more than two outlets to power all of your devices, and to protect your electronic devices from power surges and dirty electricity.
BUY A LOCK FOR YOUR LAPTOP. Ninetynine percent of laptops have a Kensington security slot and it’s best if you use it. Kensington locks, such as the MicroSaver DS Notebook Lock, can Tech Tips for Road Trips be purchased online from www.kensington.com for around $50. A small price to pay to keep your laptop secure.
PACK A SPARE CELL PHONE CHARGER AND SYNC CABLE. You shouldn’t travel without either one. Pack an AC extension cable. This will come in handy when you are located far away from a power outlet. Keep a spare AC power adapter for your laptop in your bag. You never know when you might need one.
PACK HEADPHONES TO KEEP THE NOISE OUT . Have you ever tried to be productive on an airplane? It’s hard to when the person next to you can’t stop talking. Just plug in your headphones and your problem is solved. You can even listen to relaxing music while you work. For those who want wireless Bluetooth headphones, check out the Jabra BT8030 headphones, costing about $150. These wireless headphones will do the job. However, for those music aficionados, the Bose QuietComfort 3 headphones offer the top of the line in headphone technology, and include the noise-canceling circuitry that you hear everyone talking about. The downside is the price, which is very expensive (about $350).
BACK UP YOUR DATA TO AN EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE OR THE NETWORK SERVER. If your laptop crashes or is stolen, you’ll want a backup of your most important files.
ENCRYPT YOUR HARD DRIVE AND DATA . There are many software tools available to do this, such as PGP, TrueCrypt and PC Guardian. In the event your laptop is lost or stolen, your data is protected.