How Legal Practices Can Help Protect Themselves from Data Corruption
You see it with files that refuse to open. A matter that will not load. Or a case that has missing or incomplete details.
Regardless of the symptom, data corruption is a serious problem that all legal professionals must be ready to address.
Beyond causing frustration, when data is corrupted, legal practices lose both time and money restoring and recovering sensitive data and information, much of which could be vital to the future of their businesses. In the instances where it is impossible to recover corrupted data, it could mean that years of invaluable work could be lost forever.
And while data corruption could spark a variety of issues and pain points for legal professionals, most instances have a similar cause – bad IT environment.
Whether it is a server issue, a computer error, an improper connection, or even a power outage, when a network environment is neglected or compromised, one of the most frequent casualties is data integrity.
Saimoon Bhuiyan, Technical Sales Support Engineer for PCLaw | Time Matters™️, has spent many years helping legal professionals address data corruption. He says what makes data corruption especially challenging for many of his clients is that by the time they might notice or detect an issue with their network environment, years of data could have been impacted.
“For people who use the same network for ten or 20 years, if there were issues like power outages or multiple lost connections, it can build up over time,” Bhuiyan says.
This buildup can trigger a snowball effect that can compromise years of data, including billing statements, client ledgers, and other important documents and files.
Data corruption can be a major setback specifically for database intensive applications like PCLaw® and Time Matters® and other specialized types of software in this category. The reason for this, according to Bhuiyan, is because when a legal professional opens a case or a matter, they are accessing multiple files at the same time.
“If you’re opening a Microsoft Word document, it just opens that single file,” Bhuiyan says. “Now imagine that in PCLaw, a single click can open 12 to 15 different files if needed, and if one or more of those files is corrupted, it can prevent someone from opening the entire case.”
This means if one or more files are locked up by antivirus software or compromised due to a bad network card or poor connection, a database intensive application might be unable to access that file. When this problem occurs, it can prevent an application from reading or writing to that file, causing future errors or data corruption.
Bhuiyan adds that the best way to deal with data corruption is to prevent it from happening in the first place.
PREVENTION IS KEY
The following are three things you can do to reduce the likelihood of it occurring within your legal practice:
1) Ensure a Proper Data Environment – It is true that data corruption is less likely to occur on a relational database management system (or RDBMS) like MS SQL. Programs like MS SQL have a different way of reading, writing, and updating data, and also have a mechanism to ensure it is written to all tables properly. That said, this software can be expensive, and it also requires skilled technicians to properly implement.
For legal practices that use flat file database systems like C-tree, there are still many strategies they can use to ensure proper data integrity.
If your office experiences frequent power outages, it is important to get an uninterruptible power supply for your computers like a UPS battery backup and surge protector that can keep your machines running during a blackout. We also recommend that you hardwire your computer’s network connection to ensure high connection speeds and to use high quality network cables.
Other strategies to maintain a proper data environment include ensuring both server and workstation requirements are met and being aware of potential hardware malfunctions that might occur.
2) Establish data routines in your office that prioritize data health and integrity – Legal professionals who strive for data health and integrity on their business network will quickly learn that it requires more than just technical know-how – it is also a discipline.
That is why it is important to establish officewide routines and protocols that will help prevent data corruption. For instance, legal practices should make sure that all employees close out files before restarting or shutting down their computers. It is also important to have a good backup policy to help ensure all data is copied on a routine basis.
3) Frequently screen data with verification software or applications – To help our clients prevent data corruption, PCLaw | Time Matters created Verify Data Integrity (VDI), an invaluable tool that screens index files to ensure there is no data corruption. VDI reads selected data files from a PCLaw software database and their associated index files. Best of all, if VDI detects corruption, it will automatically attempt to correct the problem without making any changes to the data files themselves.
Please note that because VDI can take an extremely long time to scan all files, we recommend clients run the tool on the server during times when network users are not going to be using PCLaw.
Additionally, PCLaw | Time Matters™️ has recently developed a new service called PCLaw Verify, an application that automatically backs up case data and index files to a secure server, running quality checks to help protect our AMP Membership Customers from corruption and external threats.
Worst Case Scenarios
In instances where data corruption makes it impossible for clients to recover lost files, Bhuiyan says there are still potential remedies.
“It depends on how badly the data is corrupted,” Bhuiyan says. “If a record is missing, you can recreate that record, and if a whole file is missing, depending on the file, it is sometimes possible to recreate that.”
In some instances, there are extreme types of corruption that will require the help of trained experts in order to recover lost data. To see if one of our expert consultants can help with these severe cases, contact a P|T Certified Consultant by using our Certified Consultant Directory at https://partners.pclawtimematters.com/.
PCLaw | Time Matters AMP Membership Customers have access to resources like articles and quick-tip videos through P|T Community and training through P|T University to help them get more from their software.