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Cloud security – evaluating public and private hosting

You’ve no doubt heard the hype: the cloud is revolutionising how law firms do business. But, like many working in the highly sensitive legal profession, you’re probably still skeptical.

In my experience, security and privacy are the top priority for law firms. A firm could be ruined by just one leaked document – handing over your reputation to another business should never be taken lightly.

A 2014 Grant Thornton study found that ‘reliability’ was sought by 56% of professional service firms when looking for an outsourcing partner. So how can we evaluate the reliability of a cloud’s security and privacy?

In my opinion, while there is no black and white answer, the most important features to consider are the difference between public and private hosting.

Public Hosting

Publicly available

A typical public cloud service is what you most probably think of when someone says ‘cloud’. It’s often used for services such as Gmail, Xero or Dropbox. A public cloud will often have a single login point that anyone can access online, e.g.

Foreign databases

Because most public hosting services are free or cheap, they store all client data within one shared database. This means there are no guarantees of where this database is located. Most publicly hosted servers are outside Australia, contravening the privacy policy of most law firms.

Restricted backup capabilities

While most cloud providers will have a basic backup functionality, public hosting doesn’t allow for backups on a user-by-user basis. That is, you aren’t able to revert your business’ database to previous dates.

Termination issues

Public hosting services often make it difficult to recover your data should you end your agreement with them. They often require you to export individual records, one by one – a painful process.

Security limitations

While public server security has improved over the last few years, there are still some issues. For example, there are fewer protections to ‘brute force’ attacks – using software to guess millions of passwords to gain access to your account.

Private hosting

Private login

Private hosting offers – shock horror – private access. This means users can log in via Microsoft’s remote desktop technology, encrypted web access or a virtual private network (VPN). This adds an extra layer of security. Not only do potential intruders need to figure out a username and password, but a login location as well.

Complete control of your database

Since private hosting clients are provided with their own server, you have complete control over your database. You dictate where the database is located, e.g. in Australia, and how it’s backed up – you can restore single files, the database or the entire environment to any point in time.

Data ownership

There are no questions around data ownership with private hosting. If you decide to end your contract, you will be provided with all your data – there’s no need for complicated file-by-file exports.

Improved security

Private servers often have superior security procedures. For example, as a counter-measure to brute force attacks, servers will lock a user account if a password is incorrectly entered three times.

So which is best for law firms?

By now the answer should be obvious – private hosted server solutions are the ideal choice.

Public services do offer business and consumers great cost-effective options to harness the benefits of the cloud. However, for certain data sensitive businesses, a private cloud is essential to ensure the security, privacy and integrity of your firm.

Bentleys, an accounting firm, recently made the switch to a private hosted server and shared their thoughts on the FilePro blog – feel free to check it out.

Want to learn more?

SEMINAR: Discover how private server hosting for FilePro can benefit your law firm

Habitat3, a leading Australian private server hosting provider, is holding seminars that aim to demystify cloud and private hosting services by showing the differences between the various options and highlighting which products best suit professional services firms. Why not join us at an upcoming seminar in Brisbane (15 March), Gold Coast, Newcastle, Sydney and Melbourne throughout 2016.

Register to attend seminars

For more information please contact John Perkins at Habitat3 on 1300 550 941 (option 1) or email

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