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Secrets Sealed

Company: Fenwick & West LLP
Vertical: Legal
Solution: SealedMedia

Fenwick & West was an early adopter, choosing ERM software by startup SealedMedia, a company recently acquired by Stellent.

Kesner took advantage of SealedMedia's free 30-day trial, tested it with several clients and was wowed by the results. His law firm's clients use hundreds of data types, including Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat, accounting databases, architectural drawings and computer-aided design documents--all of which SealedMedia supports.

In addition to the software's broad support, he was impressed by its ease of use. For the firm's lawyers, clients and outsiders to access protected files, they download a small plug-in to their computers. When they try to open protected files on the extranet, the plug-in checks in with Fenwick & West's servers to make sure they have the right to access the documents. It takes about five minutes to get most users up and running.

"We wanted a comprehensive solution that doesn't restrict certain data types and can be as transparent as possible for the user," Kesner says.

Installation wasn't hard and took about four hours this spring. Kesner had to integrate the SealedMedia software with EMC's eRoom and Microsoft's SharePoint collaboration software that he used to build 800 extranets.

The SealedMedia software is spread across two Windows-based servers, one an encryption server

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and the other a database server that houses policies. Kesner then attached the SealedMedia servers to multiple servers that house the collaboration software. Those servers, in turn, connect to a storage area network housing three terabytes of client data.

To test the security, Kesner tried to hack into the system to view the protected documents; he couldn't break through.

Since implementing ERM, 20 clients, totaling 100 users, have taken advantage of the technology. Kesner, who sets up the initial security policies, allows his clients to determine how stringent the policies are for protecting their documents.

For example, if the firm is helping a client find a buyer, it can allow potential buyers access to the extranet to view documents. Because SealedMedia requires a plug-in to view protected documents, the law firm can limit access to just one or two computers at the potential buyer's headquarters, and it can limit the amount of time the material can be viewed, such as one day or one week. Policies can also ban the ability to save or print.

"You can share data that you might not normally share, unless you were in a locked room, having a face-to-face meeting," he says. "And if a party drops out of a case or a bidder expresses they are no longer interested, we shut down their rights."

The technology generates detailed reports on who accesses information and what they do with it, so clients facing government regulations have proof that their information is secured. "It offers them peace of mind that they're operating within the regulations," Kesner says.

In the future, the law firm plans to activate Sealed-Media's email support, so clients who prefer to use ERM to protect email and attachments can do so.

Kesner says it's difficult to put a dollar figure on the software's ROI, but says the technology improves customer service and gives the firm a competitive edge. The extranets, for example, make document management more efficient, while ERM secures the data.

"Their [clients'] expectations are that law firms are stodgy and not tech-savvy, so they're pleased that we are (tech-savvy)," he says. "We've had no complaints, just compliments."

This was first published in October 2006

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