Client Success | Taylor Porter
Filling the knowledge gap and seeing beyond the immediate DR needs
Taylor Porter’s Journey to a Stronger IT Stance
by Jeff Ton
As Senior Vice President of Product Development & Strategic Alliances at InterVision and a frequent contributor to publications within the legal industry, I have seen many law firms rethinking their existing IT strategies to meet client demands and mitigate threats of disruption and reputation degradation. Taylor Porter, one of the oldest, largest and most respected law firms in Louisiana, met these pressures and objectives by turning to Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) as a solution. The director of information technology at Taylor Porter, Damian Burdette, talked with me about why DRaaS made sense for his firm.
Damian, thanks for speaking with me. Let’s start with something unique about Louisiana; the state follows Napoleonic Law. How does that affect the make-up of your client base and competing against other law firms?
Since Louisiana law is unique, we often serve as local counsel partnering with the client’s national counsel. That being said, while the firm has a large number of Louisiana-based clients, we have a number of attorneys who practice beyond the borders of the state. Though we are a single-office firm based in Baton Rouge we operate on a national level like most other firms our size or larger.
As an IT leader, what client demands have you experienced?
I have been in the legal industry for 17 years now and have seen client demands change greatly, especially in recent years. With the increase in cyberthreats and bad actors targeting law firms, clients have become increasingly concerned with how law firms handle their data. Security audits have not only increased in number but also in complexity. The requirements, security and otherwise, that clients are placing on firms closely mimics the requirements they place on themselves. Needless to say, our firm leadership stays on top of current IT issues.
What were you looking to solve with DRaaS? What advantages did you see with DRaaS that your existing technologies could not accomplish?
Honestly, DRaaS was not something we were looking for…it sort of found us. We were planning to rebuild our DR solution when I attended an ILTA webinar by Bluelock about DRaaS. During that hour I heard the struggles that a firm similar to ours was experiencing with DR and thought, “DRaaS may be something to consider.” The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. DRaaS would not require us to refresh our infrastructure, buy lots of licensing or have to find a new facility to house the solution – all things we were considering. No, someone else would do all of that for us. Most of all, it was not going to add to our IT team’s current workload or cause the firm to hire more resources to manage the additional workload of rebuilding and managing the solution. In my mind, DRaaS was a win.
Need for a Change
Were there any specific experiences that made you reexamine your IT disaster recovery stance?
During a remodel and consolidation of space in 2015 we realized that building a new on-site datacenter from the ground up, with the same guaranteed uptime as larger facilities, was not as cost effective as moving to co-located space. So, we decided to move our datacenter operations and house our production systems offsite. It was during and following this move that we determined the DR solution we had built and managed was actually managing us. The solution was based on storage-area-network-to-storage-area-network replication with a software recovery mechanism for failover, which was cumbersome at best. Testing was never easy and managing it was even more difficult, especially with limited staff. We really needed something different, so we began looking for a different DR solution.
The Selection Process
In looking for a new solution, what technology goals did you have? What were some of the technology risks you were trying to mitigate by switching to DRaaS?
The firm had several goals for the replacement DR solution. First, we needed a solution that was simple. Simple to replicate, simple to failover, simple to failback and most certainly simple to have a successful, meaningful test. Second, we needed a solution that met our recovery time objectives and recovery point objectives for Tier 1, 2 and 3 systems. Lastly, we needed a DR solution that someone else could activate in the event that one or more of our technology staff had been hit by the proverbial bus. We did not always think about situations like a hurricane, where staff may not be able to get to the DR solution to activate it. But if you are a single-site firm like ours and have a localized disaster such as a hurricane, this poses significant risk—a risk that was a huge consideration for our leadership.
As you reviewed technology providers, what characteristics were you searching for in a DRaaS partner? Can you describe the selection process and any lessons learned?
The primary characteristic we looked for was success and effectiveness at implementing and executing DRaaS. This sounds like a given, but what we found were a number of startup DRaaS vendors that were not tried and true. We wanted a partner that had “been there, done that, and had the trophy to prove it.” The second characteristic was finding a solution that fit our objectives. We are a smaller firm that did not need a hot site, but we wanted more than a cloud backup target. We were searching for a vendor who could give us the ability to replicate some systems to standby while offering a cloud backup target for other systems. Most of all, we wanted the ability to bring it all back up in the event of a catastrophe. Surprisingly, there are not a lot of providers offering that ability for firms our size.
What steps did you need to take to propose changes to your IT systems?
Sometimes, hearing is believing. In this case, I thought the best way for someone else to understand the concept of DRaaS was to have them listen to the recording of the ILTA webinar I attended. I sent it to our director of administration and it did not take him long to understand how good a fit DRaaS was for the firm. From there we proposed the concept to our Technology Committee and began finding providers that we felt could execute technology well-fitted to our needs.
How did you get buy-in from your firm’s leadership?
Gaining buy-in is never easy. Whether you are building and maintaining a DR solution you own or proposing DRaaS, you are talking about a significant investment. To demonstrate the need for DRaaS, we ran a lot of “what if” scenarios for our management teams. We also looked at the additional staffing needs required to handle building and maintaining a new solution. Lastly, we asked, “How would you continue to service your clients if we had an outage that lasted longer than a few hours?” Combining these helped our management teams understand not only the significance of disaster recovery but also the need for us to partner with a solution provider that could help us execute in a time of disaster.
The End Result
Now that you have DRaaS, what can your law firm and IT team do that you could not have done before? What unforeseen benefits can you share?
Our provider’s expertise in DRaaS and knowledge of the products in use have been critical in helping us execute the plan. Their team has filled in our knowledge gap and helped us see issues in our past DR solution that we had overlooked. The best part is they are doing all the heavy lifting. All we have to do is pick a system to replicate, make a few selections in the menus, and click next. They handle the rest.
What would you recommend to other law firms with similar pressures, or going through a technology selection process?
With all the similarities, there are no two firms that are alike with regards to technology needs. To make a decision on DRaaS, firms must look at what they are currently doing and ask, “Is it really working?” They need to look at the costs of ownership and the resources to keep it operational and tested. Most importantly, they need to ask themselves the hard question, “In a time of disaster, will there be someone here that can get us back up and running?” You can have the best people in place, but how good is the solution if they are not around to click the failover button?
Jeff Ton is Senior Vice President of Product Development & Strategic Alliances at InterVision, where he is responsible for driving the company’s product strategy and vision. Jeff focuses on the evolving IT landscape and the changing needs of customers, ensuring InterVision’s products and services meet client’s needs and drives value in their organizations now and in the future. Ton has over 30 years of experience in business and information technology and previously served as CIO for Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana and Lauth Property Group.
Damian Burdette is the Director of Information Technology at Taylor Porter.
*This case study originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of ILTA’s Peer-to-Peer Magazine, published September 2018.
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