We get asked a lot about Abacus Private Cloud: How does it work? Where is the data stored? Is it secure? We know these are very pressing questions, so we asked Ali Mirdamadi, one of our Cloud experts, for a step-by-step introduction to the Abacus Private Cloud.
Good morning or afternoon, (depending on where you are). My name is Allyson and I'm the content manager here at Abacus. Today we're going to be giving you a great demo of the Abacus Private Cloud, or APC, but before we begin here's a few housekeeping notes:
Please feel free to type in questions throughout the webinar in your nifty question box over there, and we'll answer them in the order that they were received. There is going to be a 15-minute presentation and a 15-minute Q&A. Today our presenter will be Ali. He is the Senior Cloud Computing Specialist with over 15-years of experience in tech. He is an expert on APC and, if I can say, he is a real great person to work with. I am very excited about this demo for you today, and enjoy.
Thanks, Allyson. I hope everyone can hear me okay. Thanks everyone else for joining us. I know your time is valuable, so I am going to jump right into it here.
My name is Ali, as Allyson mentioned, and I have been with Abacus for over three years. I've on-boarded over 150 law firms into our Abacus Private Cloud solution, which equates to around 1,200 users.
The goal of today's presentation isn't to make this a sales pitch. It's going to be strictly educational. The reality of it is that Abacus Private Cloud (APC), or any cloud solution, may not be the best solution today for your firm, so my goal is to help you identify whether or not it's a good time to consider moving into the cloud.
Here’s the background on the Abacus Private Cloud: Three years ago our CEO, Alessandra Lezama, joined us from a major data center here in Southern California. She was the former CEO of a data center here, and Abacus brought her onboard to help her create something more than just the software applications. So now we specialize in providing a hosted secure cloud infrastructure for hundreds, and if not thousands, of attorneys that we're working with today. And we're slowly moving into other industries that are heavily regulated, whether they're financial services or the healthcare industry, and we'll get to that here at the end.
Let me give you a quick overview of Abacus Private Cloud, and then as Allyson mentioned we'll do some Q&A at the end.
So what is the Abacus Private Cloud? The Abacus Private Cloud is a cloud solution in which you use someone else's server. It doesn't mean that you're using an account like Dropbox or necessarily Citrix, which are popular, well-known cloud solutions out there. What we're doing is we're building an entire infrastructure from the ground up specifically for your law firm. That's what gives the private in the Abacus Private Cloud.
The resources, the hardware that we build, everything that we move into this data center is specific to your firm. It's not just your AbacusLaw or Amicus Attorney, or other legal practice software that we'd be moving into this platform. We move any program, any application that resides on a Windows – they can all be moved to the total cloud solution.
These capabilities allows us to centralize all of your data, and you can access it as a result from anywhere and using any device in anytime. Whether you're in the office, at home, in court or traveling around the country, as long as you have access to the internet and a device that can access the internet, you're going to have access to not just your AbacusLaw or your Amicus Attorney software, but all of your files, folders, documents and applications, regardless of where you are.
On the back-end of the data center, we become responsible for managing your firewall and intrusion detection, for managing the security of this cloud environment, and managing your applications that are hosted on the Abacus Private Cloud.
What you'll see on the front end is a desktop that floats around and follows you wherever you are. On the back-end, there are multiple servers, and multiple resources, and a ton of human power that's managing the system so that you can use it as seamlessly as possible and kind of eliminate the need of you becoming an IT person (or a IT person in general).
One good example that I like to use about the Abacus Private Cloud is that it's essentially a mainframe computer that we used to use in the 1950s and '60s. I'll just open up this little diagram right here. At the time, people would use terminal servers to access a mainframe computer. Those were essentially “dumb” terminals that would not be able to compute anything, and it was grabbing data and information from the mainframe computer. Essentially, what we're doing today by moving everything into this hosted cloud solution.
Your resources, your computing power, everything happens to this data center, everything on the front end becomes a “dumb” terminal. So your devices aren't storing any data, they're not housing any of the applications, and everything is being connected to virtually.
Who are the best candidates for Abacus Private Cloud? Lawyers and paralegals that need remote access to all of their programs and data from where they are. In my opinion, that’s one of the top reasons people move to Abacus Private Cloud, especially if your office has multiple office locations.
If you have multiple office locations, what happens is you typically have to have a server in each one of those location, or have a sophisticated IT setup and infrastructure setup, so that you can connect to a centralized database. So moving to Abacus Private Cloud eliminates the need for that altogether.
And if you’re in the market for a new server, it’s a great time to look into the Abacus Private Cloud or other cloud solutions, because what you're doing is you're moving away from the capital expenditure of buying hardware and buying infrastructure.
Instead, with the Abacus Private Cloud, you're moving to an operating expense. In this you can pay as you grow and as your firm grows. If you need more resources, more resources will be added and adjustments will be made to your hardware. And then finally, you've got the last two, which is the concerns about the security of your data. A lot of people say, “Why would I want to move my data from my local computer and my local server into Abacus Private Cloud and into someone else's server?” Back in the day, it was easy to manage applications and manage data and resources when it was hosted locally, but today with all the threats and all the potential vulnerabilities that exist, it's a big issue.
You've seen hacking happen, you've seen ransomware happen, and what we're trying to do is give you access to a group of hundreds of people that specialize in data security and in managing and hosting your data, so that you don't need to worry about these potential threats and security issues moving forward.
There's security issues and new malware and new email threats that happen every single day, and the bad guys are always out there coming up with a new way to scheme you out of your money. So what you need is dedicated professionals that specialize in security, and your local IT guy, they can't keep up at this point. There are so many moving parts that the local IT person, it's going to be hard for them to keep up with all these changes.
And ultimately, if you're a firm that has high IT costs, we're able to eliminate that because you're moving to a hosted data center versus having everything on the local network. What does Abacus Private Cloud replace? It replaces your local servers, so you don't need to buy a server or buy infrastructure in the office anymore. It gets rid of up to 95% of your IT costs.
So traditional IT professionals make money by creating an architecture for implementing hardware in your office. They get paid for setting up the server, installing software, managing the server, managing the backups, and then occasionally coming in to handle break fix issues. However, because you're moving to a hosted facility, you no longer have those requirements, and you really don't need an IT person.
We partner with a lot of IT professionals, and what their role transitions into is assisting the firm with making sure that the computers are set up and connected to the internet properly, and so that everyone can access that from wherever they're at, and making sure that the printers and scanners are functioning properly as well.
The other thing that Abacus Private Cloud replaces is the future capital expenditure. Instead of having to buy a server every three to five years, you're eliminating that cycle altogether and you're moving to an operating cost.
Servers for medium-sized firms, let's say of 10 to 30 attorneys, they can cost anywhere between $10,000 to $15,000. Then you've got the power to run that server, and then all the other things that go into hand of managing that server and resources that go along with it. As I mentioned, software-licensing costs go away and then the cost of electricity goes away because you don't have to have a server that remains on 24x7 in your facility anymore. Then in addition to that, there's a discount that you can get from your liability insurance provider by moving to a hosted data center versus keeping things on premise, which can be far more insecure.
Why is Abacus Private Cloud more popular today versus a couple years ago? Obviously, there's the long-term cost savings of not having to deal with buying hardware. Performance is probably the big thing in speaking to the attorneys that I've worked with over the years. If in the past you've used a virtual solution, or you've used something like Logging In or Go To My PC, the challenge has been that when you type a word in a document, the phrases would show three to five to ten seconds later, and that annoys the heck out of any attorney, any paralegal, or anyone using that kind of infrastructure. So up until now, hardware costs and internet speeds weren't at a point where we could sufficiently provide you with this kind of technology.
Now that's all changed, and a lot of the Abacus growth has been propelled by the Abacus Private Cloud, including the acquisition of Amicus Attorney that we had last year. It's all a result of the popularity of Abacus Private Cloud and people migrating to that solution.
Peace of mind has also been critical with a lot of the attorneys that I work with. I have firms as small as solo practitioners. A really good example is a very good client of mine out in Florida. He essentially said, "I don't want to deal with IT issues, I just want something where I put in my credential and it works. I don't want to deal with backing up, I don't want to deal with vulnerabilities. I want you guys take care of that."
That kind of peace of mind allows attorneys to know that even if they spill coffee on their laptop, or even if they lost their laptop, none of their data would be lost and everything would still be secured in this private cloud solution. So that's one other reason that this kind of a solution has become popular. I also like to use an example of transitioning from Blockbuster to Netflix. A private cloud is similar to Netflix in that you no longer have a VHS tape player, you no longer need the rewinder sitting next to it to rewind the tapes, you don't have to have a guy from Best Buy to come and connect all the cables and hard wire everything into the TV and get your media center working properly.
All of that archaic information is eliminated because everything is hosted in the Abacus Private Cloud, and so even considering set of programs like Netflix or other solutions that are out there, that data still resides somewhere. It's just residing in a professionally managed facility. In this case, it's designed specifically for industries that have high regulations, and are highly regulated and have high requirements as far as securing their data.
With that being said, I'm going to hop into a quick live demonstration of Abacus Private Cloud. What you guys are looking at here is my desktop in the office in San Diego. What I'm going to do is connect to my remote desktop for my Abacus Private Cloud.
How you connect to it is any PC, any Microsoft PC, will come pre-installed with Microsoft Remote Desktop. If you search for remote desktop in your search bar in Microsoft it will automatically pull it up. If you're using an Apple device like an iPad, or an iPhone, or even a MacBook you can download the remote desktop connection utility from Microsoft for free, and the same applies with Android devices.
Once you have your remote desktop connection utility up and running, what you're essentially going to do is each user at the firm is going to have their own credentials that they're going to use to login to the environment. You type in your credential, and you hit connect. Then you type your password in. Then you hope everything works the way that it's supposed to, and you'll connect to your private cloud via secure remote connection.
This secure remote connection, it's bank rate security. What you're doing is you're creating this connection between your device and the private cloud, and it doesn't matter what device you're using. The data that flows between the two devices is encrypted. So it's not something that, again if I lost my laptop or I lost my computer at the office, this is what I'm losing. I really don't have any data installed on this local desktop, but on the private cloud I have my AbacusLaw, my Abacus Accounting, I have Amicus Attorney, all of my files, my folders. They all may reside in this private cloud environment. This desktop here that you're looking at today or you're looking at right now, this desktop will follow me around wherever I'm at.
I can be in an airport terminal getting an emergency phone call from a client, and I need to find a computer, and login, and find information. This is the desktop that you would find right away. Moving data back and forth between the cloud is pretty easy. You can take a file and you can say, "You know what I need to copy it from my cloud environment, and I need to move it to my local desktop." It's easy as copy and paste. Now I have a copy of that document here. It works both ways, so I can move data from my local desktop to the private cloud. Ideally, you want to be working out of this environment, because your environment is protected with the so-called antivirus and malware protection, it's protected through obviously the encryption in the environment itself, and then we're responsible for backing up this data and making sure that everything is running properly.
Really, nothing else needs to happen on your end. You just need to find a device that can connect to the internet and from there you have access to your private cloud so a couple use cases before we go into Q&A with Allyson.
Here’s an example: we have clients all over the world, but in Florida they lost their services because of a hurricane. Even if the power is knocked out or you lose WiFi, it's as easy as getting your phone to connect to your private cloud environment. You can access everything by using your phone as a hotspot or by using an iPad that connects to Verizon or AT&T, or as easy as walking down to Starbucks or somewhere that has a WiFi connection.
Another good use case is a client of ours out in Alaska. His building was clipped by an airplane, which sounds ridiculous but it actually happened. In that situation, they had to close the building down for several weeks for renovations. But he was able to go home and access his entire desktop regardless of where he's at was crucial and it was important.
Then finally, I think one of the last examples that I have is items like CryptoLocker. A lot of people don't talk about it because they don't want to think about a potential breach of their client's data. But it happens more often then we like to think, and depending whether it’s CryptoLocker or ransomware, it will lead to you losing your data. And in some cases, it will ask you to pay Bitcoin to get your data. But if you have a really good IT contingency plan in place it'll still take about two business days for you to recover from that.
In this case, you need to wipe all the servers and computers, and start reinstalling all the software applications and then reloading your data onto it. That's at least a business day or two-day deal. We've had clients that have been hit with CryptoLocker in the private cloud because it is possible through user error by opening an attachment you shouldn't, and we were able to recover from that within 30 minutes. So from the business continuity standpoint it's been incredibly helpful in the industry as well, and we're looking to slowly start moving into other industries where we can help them with meeting not its compliance requirements but making their life a lot easier to use the private cloud.
That's my really fast version of Abacus Private Cloud. I'm going to jump into Q&A because I know there's going to be some questions that need some answering.
Q: So Jamie is asking, "Do we host email exchange and how does this save us on top for the license?" That's a good question.
A: Yeah, so we do provide Microsoft Office 365 E3 Licenses for each user of Abacus Private Cloud. What that means is Microsoft has a specific requirement with what you can install on the private cloud environment as far as Microsoft programs go. Office 365, they are requesting on volume licensing of it, which is the E3 license.
We would install that on the cloud for you. It includes hosted exchange, and our team will help you move that data here. In addition to the emails, you're moving to the private cloud today and we're leveraging our AbacusLaw and Amicus Attorney software licenses so we're giving those licenses for free as long as you're moving to the pilot cloud. The other thing that you don't need to worry about as far as software goes and the Microsoft Office 365 license is included as part of the subscription. Your AbacusLaw, Amicus Attorney software licensing is included in the subscription, and then your Windows environment.
So today, we're using Windows Server 2012 but all of our firms are using Windows Server 2016 and so we're helping each one of the firms make that transition to 2016, and there's no cost to you for it. As new hardware comes out we'll implement it into the server so there's no cost to you for that as well.
Q: Jade is asking about the speed of Abacus Private Cloud.
A: The speed of Abacus Private Cloud it's hitting on solid state hard drives. That is one key component of it working the way that it needs to, and you being able to interact with it as if it's your own desktop. So because we're using solid state hard drives it makes typing within the environment incredibly quick.
Then of course, all the other applications and programs that you're using within the Abacus Private Cloud are going to work incredibly quickly if not faster than your local desktop. The reason is that you're using enterprise-level hardware in an enterprise data center, and I actually will show you what the data center looks like versus buying something off of Best Buy or Newegg.
This is the data center that we use. There's only four of these in the world that are tier-goal for data.
As far as the speed goes one of the things that I want to note is that you want a one megabit up-and-down concurrent connections per user. Meaning if you have 10 people working in your law firm you want internet speeds that are going to be 10 megabits up, 10 megabits down.
You can test it on your own by going to Speedtest.net, and this website here will give you an accurate reading of your internet speeds. It takes a couple seconds for it to load but there will be a little display here that will show up momentarily. You click on Begin Test and that will show you your internet speeds.
In some cases you might need to upgrade your internet speed, it's the upload speed that usually is lagging. But if you have a one megabit up and down connection, concurrent connection per user, you're going to see an incredibly fast environment run, and again, it's going to run faster than your local computer because you're using enterprise hardware.
Q: Edward is asking about Word perfect, "Will that work?"
A: Yes, Word Perfect will work and any Microsoft-based application will work in the private cloud as well. A question that I saw someone else have that I scrolled up and I don't see it anymore is about Best Case Bankruptcy software.
So yes, you can install Best Case Bankruptcy software on the Abacus Private Cloud. I have bankruptcy attorneys that use Best Case. We install that on the private cloud for you and we help you manage to keep that secure, and you're basically taking a non cloud-based application and you're moving it into the cloud. The same is applicable with QuickBooks, the QBE specifically. The same is applicable with other calculators that Family Law Attorneys have for alimony and child support. Essential forms is another one that we can move to the cloud. So any Windows-based application can be moved to the cloud there's no additional cost of doing that.
Q: If our office no longer has its server how do we provide internet access with guests?"
A: That's another question from Jade. You're still going to have internet in your office, you just don't need to route that through the server. The only people that need access to the private cloud are the users and the firm that need access to this desktop in the shared data that exists within the desktop. So your typical person that comes into the office will still have WiFi and they can still use the WiFi to play around with on their phone or do something else, but your users will be using the Abacus Private Cloud environment.
Q: Raymond is asking about document management saving systems, "What happens if we save documents to OneDrive and Microsoft Office 365? Does that negate use of private cloud?"
A: That's a good question. OneDrive actually comes with your Microsoft E3 subscription. We can install that on this environment for you but we recommend using that for non-sensitive data. The difference between OneDrive and the private cloud is that OneDrive is using a public cloud, and what that means is every time, every subscriber on one drive doesn't get their own server, and their own data center with your own resources.
You're using a server that may be shared with hundreds of other people. It maybe the floral shop down the street. It could be the bookstore that's on the other side of town. Your data gets shared with multiple people so that's why for sensitivity reasons and for security reasons you want to put the data that needs to be secured in your private cloud. If there is data that doesn't require specific security you can install OneDrive, Google Drive, and other applications in the private cloud environment and it'll work just fine.
Q: We got, Douglas is asking, "We use QuickBooks sometimes but now we also keep WordPerfect in order, that's for older documents. How do those work within the private cloud?"
A: All of those work fine. So interestingly enough Abacus Private Cloud isn't used just for AbacusLaw, Amicus, and we have clients that are using computing software. Software like PC Law, Timeslips, Time Matters, QuickBooks, all of those applications as long as they can run on a Windows environment we can install them on this secure hosted environment for you.
Q: "How do you download individual programs to the cloud, or share larger files from the cloud?"
A: Microsoft SharePoint allows you to create kind of a quasi client portal where you can share folders and files with people that are outside of the cloud environment. It essentially works by Google Drive where you send a link to that person, they click the link, they can access that data, they can download. Then you give them ... Then you put in place restrictions on whether or not they can download the data, whether they can edit it, or whether it's just a You Only. That's what you'd be doing as far as giving them access to data goes. In addition to that, I would say within the private cloud if you can open, if you're downloading a large file you want to download it out of your private cloud environment because this is going to work incredibly faster than downloading it on to your local desktop and wanting to copy and paste it into the private cloud environment.
You can take a large file and copy it from the local environment and paste it into the private cloud, but ideally ,if you're doing all of your work from here and you're downloading all of your large files from here then that's the way to go. That seems to be all the time that I have today to help you guys out. I know that our account managers and representatives are available to help you with any additional questions, and I'm here to help you guys any additional questions. Feel free to send them our way to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for your time everybody, and I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you today.
Have a great weekend!