As a technology company supporting law firms, I dread some of the phone calls that I receive early in the morning. You see, it’s often a lawyer with a problematic PC. Like most lawyers, they have become extremely dependent on the PCs. Some would say more than their legal assistants. Usually, they are hoping that I can drop everything and get them back to work as the thought of a day without a working PC is just too unfathomable.
Most firms, put either a desktop PC, or more recently, a laptop PC on each attorney’s desk. Typically, they purchase business class computers. I often see laptops with docking stations, large monitors, full-sized keyboards and mice. These are great configurations, but they come typically with a high price. When these machines malfunction, the lawyer is ‘dead in the water’, unable to work until the machine is fixed.
The typical repair strategy is to troubleshoot, and if necessary, repair with some parts that are quickly available or utilize a backup PC. For example, if the hard drive is defective, the repair time can be several hours. If the machine is under warranty with a service agreement, parts can be available within 24 hours. But, in real life the actual downtime is often longer. A simple hard drive replacement can take a long times since the entire desktop needs to be reinstalled and configured. So, until recently, there has never been an ideal approach to provide zero downtime to the lawyer with technical trouble.
Recent changes in the PC and software industry have made me rethink my strategy to help avoid this from happening. The price of computers has drop precipitously over the last year. Very capable desktop computers are now available for $500 to $800. Additionally, the price of laptop computers has fallen dramatically where they are available in a similar price range providing that you don't need a laptop that is docking station capable. It’s important to note that these lower cost systems are not anemic systems, but very capable and powerful machines. As well, the advent of netbook computers has added a very capable low end to the options as well.
Another important factor in this strategy is using software that allows for easy, reliable, and automatic synchronization across multiple PCs. My personal favorites include:
- Microsoft Exchange Server for messaging, calendar, and contacts
- Dropbox for file synchronization
- Xmarks for browser favorite/bookmark synchronization
- LastPass for login information synchronization
If you do a cost analysis, it isn’t hard to make the argument that 2 PCs – a desktop PC and a laptop PC – in every attorney’s office makes a great deal of sense. By doing this, they have 2 working computers with identical information. They literally can pickup either PC and be productive. If one PC has a problem, they simply move to the other PC, and off to work they go. An added benefit, is that they have a light weight laptop to take with them when they leave the office. I like this approach so much, that it’s become my standard approach to enabling my users to as productive as possible.
Contact Info: firstname.lastname@example.org
LassPass, Microsoft Exchange Server, DropBox, Xmark, Xmarks, Netbook, Docking Station