You may not have noticed, but Office 365 keeps on being updated, and a lot of the subtle enhancements have to do with the ongoing integration of additional cloud services. Let’s have a closer look at Word and OneDrive.
OneDrive comes in different versions with different features. Anybody can sign up for a free account, but, as a lawyer, you are typically expected to sign up for a professional version of ‘OneDrive for Business.’ Many law firm management software providers advise to use Office 365 Business Premium. (If, for some reason, you are using a version of OneDrive that does not offer certain features, it is good to know it may well be possible to subscribe to those features separately).
In Office 365, it is possible to save documents to the cloud, which is done by saving them to OneDrive. A first advantage of having a document in OneDrive, is that it can be accessed from anywhere at any time, and on most devices. There are apps for mobile devices and tablets, and it is even possible to use Office Online, a free web version (with a limited feature set) of the most popular Office applications.
Another advantage of using OneDrive is that the copies saved by autosave are saved in the cloud, too. If your device would crash while working on a document, you can continue working from another device. Microsoft also automatically makes backups of all your OneDrive documents.
One of the biggest advantages of using OneDrive, is that you can share files and folders with other people. If you need feedback from your client, from other lawyers, or even from an external consultant, there is no need to email anybody a copy of the document, you just give them access to the document in OneDrive. And you have the option to determine for each person whether they get access to just read or to edit the texts. etc. It is also possible to insert comments into the text, where Word will keep track of who said what. What’s more, the person you want to give access to one or more documents, doesn’t even need to have Office 365 themselves. They can use the free apps, or Office online to access the documents. All you have to do is send them an email with the link.
OneDrive is specifically designed for people to cooperate on documents. It has built-in capabilities such as advanced permissions management, versioning control, eDiscovery, and records management to ensure documents are managed, controlled, archived and can be retrieved in one place with reduced overhead.
“But is it safe?” you may wonder. The short answer is that it is. Typically, professional cloud service providers have excellent security measures in place. Your data is in all likelihood more secure in the cloud than it is on your own servers. Add to that that the professional version of OneDrive allows to use two-step authentication to access documents. OneDrive also offers a more advanced permission management system, called the Advanced Security Management (ASM), which will detect abnormal usage and allow you to monitor how your documents are being accessed and used. (If your version of OneDrive doesn’t include ASM, it is possible to order it separately).
It is important to remain aware of the terms and conditions of OneDrive, especially if, as a lawyer, you store evidence on OneDrive. Microsoft has strict policies when it comes to, e.g., nudity or graphic violence. Storing such content, even if it is evidence in a case, may be a violation of Microsoft’s terms and conditions, and may lead to your account being suspended. One possible workaround, is to sign up for ‘Customer Lockbox’ which gives you greater control over what Microsoft can scan on your OneDrive, but it offers no guarantees. If Microsoft does find anything it considers a violation of their terms and conditions, your account may be suspended.
We started this article by referring to the constant updates of Office 365 and the addition of additional cloud services. For many of these cloud services, is making progress with the integration of Artificial Intelligence. You may know that within Word, e.g., you have the option to translate text in a document to different languages. Those translations have been getting better and better. Another new feature is an intelligent dictionary for acronyms, which will tell you what a certain acronym in a certain context means. Specifically interesting for lawyers are the advancements Microsoft has been making in the field of eDiscovery on OneDrive.
Needless to say that the usage of OneDrive is integrated most modern software packages for law firm management.
PS: this article was written in reply to a request for information about OneDrive for Lawyers.