Posts Tagged ‘support’

What’s The Big Deal with GoToMeeting, GoToAssist, GoToWebinar andGoToMyPC

The Following Article was Originally published in Technolawyer.

You may have heard the radio ads for “GoTo”. A businessman forgets a key file at the office and saves a long trip back to the office (and a lost sale) thanks to this miraculous service called “GoToMyPC”. However, there is much more to “GoTo” than remote file access. “GoTo” is a suite of online products and services from Citrix Online that is built around a core “secure desktop sharing” technology. This review will look at the core technology and then evaluate each of the products, looking specifically at where they would fit into the practice of a busy lawyer.

THE “CONNECTED” LAWYER

The “connected” lawyer of today is wired with technology. Whether armed with a Blackberry, Palm Treo or Motorola-Q, the modern lawyer is in constant communication with his/her clients, colleagues, and the court. Text messages, e-mails, and documents fly across the airwaves and wires 24-hours a day. With the expectation of “24×7″ service comes the need for access to information “24×7″ far more information than can be stored on the hard-drive of a PDA-Phone (or even a laptop).

The “connected” lawyer of today works on multiple computers. There is usually a desktop in the office, maintained by the Information Technology (“IT”) Manager. There is the attorney’s laptop which is used “at home” and “on the road”. There are the family computers networked together in a “home” wireless network. In addition, there may be computers at a client site or an airport. When a lawyer complains that his computer doesn’t work, he could be referring to any one of these computers, all of which are critical to the conduct of his/her business.

The “connected” lawyer of today must collaborate. Collaboration requires meetings with colleagues; meetings with clients; meetings with experts; meetings with co-counsel; and negotiation meetings with opponents. The teams need to be brought together to make a decision. The teams need to “see” and “review the evidence” before they can make a decision. However, there is not time enough in the day to travel to “all” these meetings; nor can many of these meetings be “scheduled” for a future date. These meetings need to happen now!!! Emails and text messages can facilitate scheduling the meeting; but they cannot replace the actual meeting.

The “connected” lawyer today must teach. Unless you are the only lawyer in town, clients don’t just walk in the door. They are “invited”. A client gets a referral from a friend, reads an article, finds a website, or attends a seminar. The prospective client gets to “know” the lawyer. There is more to marketing than building a website (everyone does that); writing a blog (that’s a lot of work); or sending out a newsletter (how boring). There needs to be a personal touch – a connection with the client. What better way to get connected than in a seminar? Why not teach that seminar over the web, and call it a Webinar?

GOING VIRTUAL

The “connected” lawyer must “go virtual”. The full information resources that a lawyer uses at his/her desktop must be available 24×7 from anywhere and accessible from any device. The IT Director of the firm must be able to provide instant support to “all” the lawyer’s computers (not just the ones that are tethered by Ethernet to the office network). And the lawyer must be able to setup ad hoc online meetings, as well as scheduled meetings.

Virtual Office: Fifteen years ago, I mobilized an army of paralegals to haul 50 banker’s boxes of exhibits to the federal courthouse on the eve of a trial. A few years later, we replaced the boxes with a File-Server in the Courtroom, which we brought back each night to upload the daily court transcripts.

Today, you can bring in a laptop with a wireless broadband connection – any laptop, and have access to the same information. Using “remote access” software, the attorney can have access to this information, not only in the courtroom, but also at a conference table in settlement negotiations, at meetings with an expert witness or during depositions of key opposition witnesses.

Virtual Support: Once computers were a luxury, affordable only by the rich. The computer supplied by the office was the only computer used by the attorney. Today, computers are “appliances” that are in every room of the typical house. The expectation (and a reasonable one) is that the IT Manager must provide support for all of these computers. Run the ROI. If a high-priced attorney has to spend 4 hours fiddling with his connections to do “office work” from home, whose money is lost?

Today, you can have instant support, on your desktop, on your laptop, on your MediaCenter PC. In one-click of the mouse, you can have your office IT Manager connect to your computer (any of your computers) and fix it. The typical “support call” used to take 30 minutes with a 50% success rate. With remote desktop support, the IT Manager can “see” the problem, and often solve it in under five minutes. A happy attorney is a productive and profitable attorney. And for you IT Managers, think of all the grateful attorneys you helped and how they will vote at the partner’s meeting when it comes to budget approval (and compensation!)

Virtual Meetings: The virtual or online meeting used to be the province of high-powered corporations and law firms. Only they could “afford” to set up a special audiovisual conference center with a dedicated T-1 line. Today, with “secure online meeting” software, you can schedule a meeting; send out invitations that include registration, time and conference call information; and then conduct the meeting from your “virtual office”. The virtual office can be anywhere that has an internet connection. It may be your office; a conference room; or a table at Starbuck’s.

Virtual Seminars: Setting up a seminar used to be a big production involving publicists, mailings, space rental and special preparation. Even virtual seminars involved costs: securing a phone connection, setting up the conference call, and charges per attendee that cost upwards of thousands of dollars. Today, secure online meeting products have “all you can meet” and “all you can reach” plans for a fixed monthly subscription. The whole process from promotion, to conducting the meeting, to post-meeting follow-up can be handled from a single web-console; and is easy enough for an attorney to handle without assistance.

CITRIX ONLINE OFFERINGS

Citrix Online has built a suite of services:

  • GoToMyPC for Virtual Office (www.gotomypc.com)
  • GoToAssist for Virtual Support (www.gotoassist.com)
  • GoToMeeting for Virtual Meetings (www.gotomeeting.com)
  • GoToWebinar for Virtual Seminars (www.gotowebinar.com)

Each of these services has an “all you can use” plan, charging only per “organizer” or “host”. According to Citrix Online, each of these services offers: standards-based cryptography with true end-to-end encryption, a high-availability hosted service infrastructure, and an intuitive user interface combined to maximize confidentiality, integrity and availability. In other words, your information is secure, available upon request and easy to access.

The core of the system is a “desktop screen sharing” client combined with a hosted distribution service that is easy to setup and maintain. What sets Citrix Online offering apart is the combination of (1) security, (2) ease of use and (3) price. The comments below are based on extensive use of this suite of products over the past five years. At Basha Systems LLC, we use all of these products to communicate with and support our clients numerous times every single day.

Each of these services is offered on a subscription basis (monthly or annual). Monthly prices per user start at $19.95 for GoToMyPC; $49.95 for GoToMeeting; $99.95 for GoToWebinar, and $300 for GoToAssist. These numbers can quickly add up, unless the right business-case is made for their use of these services. There are, of course, discounts for annual plans and multiple users, and special promotions. The pricing is competitive compared to comparable offerings from other vendors. And as the expectation of clients and colleagues for instant collaboration and the need for law firm marketing increases, these fees will soon become just part of the cost of doing business.

GoToMyPC. This is the program to get your feet “wet” in virtual computing. Get GoToMyPC Pro or GoToMyPC Corporate and install it on your office computer and on your home PC. Be sure to assign a high quality password (text and numbers). With a Pro or Corporate account, the IT Manager can manage the installation and the access rights from a central webpanel.

Once installed, GoToMyPC allows the attorney to login-in to their PC from anywhere, and work on their desktop, the same way as if they were right in the office. There is no need to install special office files on each PC and configure them for access to the network. By controlling your desktop PC, you can see everything you see at the office, without being there.

If you want to impress your colleagues about how late you were at the office, you can remote in from a late night Internet Cafe and send an email from your office computer. If your child’s schools declares a last-minute snow day, you can continue your work from home.

Most often, this means grabbing a file or two from your office to work on your home PC. There is an excellent File Transfer Utility built into the product. In addition, there is also a remote printer setup that lets you open up a file on your office desktop, but then send it to print on the printer in your Hotel’s business office. The benefits of “remote desktop access” include added security since the file need not be transferred to the hotel computer. GoToMyPC can also be used for invitations for one-on-one collaboration. However, you are better served by the GoToMeeting or GoToWebinar product if you need to connect with more than one person.

GoToMyPC has had security issues in the past. The security of a PC with an active GoToMyPC client on it is only as good as your passwords. While there are 3 levels of passwords: GoToMyPC login, Remote Access login, and Network login (if you lock your desktop), any failure to rotate your passwords or the use of obvious passwords will put your computer at risk. In addition, accessing GoToMyPC accounts from untrusted computers (i.e. airport, internet cafes, Kinkos etc.) can subject you to risk of keystroke logging programs recording your login information. This happened at one Kinkos in New York. However, there was a happy ending. Because Citrix Online records connection information (time, location, IP address), their fast response team was actually able to identify the offending PC and aided the police in arresting the culprit.

Another drawback of GoToMyPC occurs when you go on vacation. When your client calls asking you to review a document or check on the status of his case, you no longer have excuses. He knows you have GoToMyPC, and expects you to find a HotSpot and login into your desktop.

GoToAssist. This program is a must for any IT Manager. You can set up an RDC (Remote Desktop Connection) in Windows to allow you to support computers inside the office (tethered to the Ethernet). However, setting up an RDC for a home PC or laptop is something you should avoid. It takes too much time, and is often done wrong. Moreover, at the time of the support call (when the crisis is brewing) is not the time to take a highly anxious senior partner through the steps of properly setting up the RDC.

This is where GoToAssist shines. Set up a link on the law firm’s website. The lawyer clicks on the link, accepts a download, and you now have complete remote access to their PC. The GoToAssist service is on a monthly or annual subscription with a charge per concurrent support technician. The support call comes in over GoToAssist as a request for connection. The technician sees the desktop and places a call to the user. Assistance is immediate.

GoToAssist is expensive; the monthly charge adds up. Realize however, since the license is concurrent, you will likely need only a single license for the firm. The program sometimes has problems with firewalls. If the attorneys you are supporting have Zone Alarm or Norton Internet Security on their home PCs, they will have to affirmatively allow access before the session can begin. Once the connection is made, of course, you have full remote desktop control during the length of the session.

Finally, a high-speed internet connection is essential. While it functions over dial-up, the delays in screen-updating make the provision of remote support tortuous. We once had a client in a remote part of Nebraska who had a satellite connection that made dial-up look fast. Transferring a 15 megabyte file took over an hour and the screen refresh delays were 10-15 seconds. These are the exception, rather than rule. Most connections are instantaneous.

GoToMeeting. Collaboration on documents is what lawyers do. And since most documents are digitized, collaboration involves hovering around a computer screen (or projector) and discussing the document. GoToMeeting makes meetings easy, with an “all you can meet” product. You pay a monthly or annual subscription for each authorized organizer; there is no fee for attendees or per meeting.

You can start a meeting by simply clicking on GoToMeeting icon in your system tray, a toolbar icon in Word, or using Instant Chat. Simply choose (or list the attendees) and send off your invitation. GoToMeeting include a free conference number that attendees can dial into and enter the meeting ID. Collaboration could not be easier.

Once the participants are in attendance, GoToMeeting allows you to “chat” with attendees, use markers and highlights to illustrate points, even lets you pass the mouse to other attendees, and even lets you pass the baton to another presenter. It gives you all the tools found in other online meeting programs.

While most GoToMeeting connections are quick and easy, there are some minor annoyances. When the meeting starts, there is a control panel on the upper right hand of the screen which blocks a view of the desktop. The attendees need to be instructed how to collapse the panel and then maximize the desktop viewer. It would be far better to have the default be a collapsed panel and a maximized viewer. Also, from the perspective of the organizer, the settings for allowing drawing and keyboard control could be more intuitive. When you switch presenters, the new presenter has to manually give keyboard and drawing privileges to the original presenter. It would be far better to get those issues resolved when the presenter is passed, allowing the presenter to show his screen, allow drawing and give mouse control in one click.

GoToWebinar. The online seminar product is only a few months old. Citrix Online is currently bundling it free with a 10-user GoToMeeting account. GoToWebinar is an “all you can reach” product. It enables lawyers to reach their clients and prospective clients with maximum ease and minimum cost. Like GoToMeeting, you pay a monthly or annual subscription for each authorized organizer; there is no fee for attendees or per meeting.

GoToWebinar works just like GoToMeeting. In fact, it comes bundled with GoToMeeting. The distinction is that GoToWebinar is designed as a marketing and educational tool. It includes special tools for sending out slick customized meeting invitations. A webpanel allows you to describe the meeting, add graphics and information, and conduct a pre-attendance pool of the attendees. You have reports of how success the mailing was, how many have registered, and what their answers were to the poll.

During the meeting, you can have multiple organizers. While one attorney is making a web presentation, another attorney can be fielding written questions from the users or preparing quick-poll questions to get feedback from the attendees. The meeting control panel even lets you gauge the interest of the attendees in real-time so you can liven up the presentation.

After the meeting, you can automatically send out surveys of the users to either test their “recall” when the webinar is for instruction or to gather useful feedback for future presentations. There is even an option for attendees to record the webinar for future playback. In addition, for invitees who could not attend the meeting, such users can be automatically sent a link to a recording of the meeting on the hosted webinar site.

GoToWebinar is a new product, with some issues still being worked out. There can be issues with firewalls that block certain attendees from viewing the meeting. The innovative poll is a great feature; however, on my last session, GoToWebinar failed to properly record the answers to the instant polls. Further, GoToWebinar presumes that attendees do not intend to speak during the session, assigning a conference number that is “listen only”. You can manually override that number and supply one that can have up to 100 speakers (sufficient for most webinars).

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

Getting the GoTo line of products may well be your best technology investment ever. The service will make you as a lawyer more productive and more responsive. It will help you secure new clients and new business. With the new business you will be able to afford (and in fact be delighted to invest in) all the other technological productivity investments, whether they be case management, document assembly, or digital voice transcription software.

Basha Systems Client Portal Launched

At Basha Systems we have recently launched a new and improved client portal.  The system is built in SubDreamer and phpBB2.  We provide a private space for client announcement and downloads. On the client home page we give an overview of recent postings in a private threaded discussion forum.

Check out the portal at Bashasys.net.  Login as “clienttest” with the password “clienttest” and give it a test drive.  We set up the portal for all client projects that exceed $15,000.

The New Paradigm in Client Communications

The typical client communication has degenerated into a tsunami of e-mails.  When there are only two players on a project, email communications are managable.  If the users have implemented filters on their email, or use a case management product like Time Matters then you can build a thread of e-mails on a topic.  However, once multiple developers and a team of clients join the project, e-mail threads get quickly out of control.  People get copied on emails that should not be.  Emails grow in length as they get replied to and forwarded.

By contrast, a Discussion Forum has Topics.  An inital post can have a range of “replies”.  The team can “vote” on topics … respond to a poll.  The whole forum is searchable with an intelligent search engine.  Topics can be “closed” and moved to a closed issues forum.  When combined with a publishing engine like SubDreamer, the topics can lead to “announcements” which are made to a selected group based on login.  If there is a file that needs to be downloaded, it can be posted to the server and be accessible without fancy FTP (File Transfer Protocol) software via a download manager.

Document Assembly and Information Portals

Basha Systems continues it exploration of finding the most efficient technology to provide information on document assembly and its potential as a “disruptive technology” that created “profits” for the practice of law. Part of this exploration has been the porting of the this blog to Expression Engine. Other examples can be seen on the main Bashasys.com web site with the introduction of Video Tours of our system. See Document Assembly Video Tours. Another element is the use of integrated web publishing and threaded discussion technology which will soon be available as a private Client Portal on Bashasys.Ne

Related Link: A sample link to our Client Support Portal

What is the promise of Web portals and why should anyone who cares about document assembly care?

Web portals no longer cost thousands of dollars.  There are open source web-portals, and there are low priced software systems which contain dozens of customizable skins.  While these “portals” are not designed for an “attorney” to set up WYSWIG … They do present a powerful, low cost alternative that is within the reach of most law firms.  And … the benefit is that since portals are driven by databases … and not HTML coded pages, it is incredibly each to add new articles, or manage threaded discussions without ANY knowledge of HTML, PHP, MySQL and the plethora of intimidating web acronyms.

The reason you should care is simple.  Many clients start out with a “google search” before they go to an attorney.  It is not that they use the Google search to choose the attorney, but they use it to inform themselves of the law in a particular area so that they can more effectively use the attorney’s “expensive” time.  That is because attorneys, for better are worse, are views as “expensive” … and the less time you spend with an attorney, the better.  “Some of my best friends are attorneys … and I still maintain my own bar rap.”

How to WebPortal Increase Visibility

Web portals, particular ones like ExpressionEngine and SubDreamer are entirely database driven.  The entire website consists of a series of cascading templates and style sheets which pull information from a database of posted articles.  This means, you have an instant, current, easily modifiable, completely searchable and indexed set of articles, organized by categories and subcategories, that can demonstrate the expertise of your firm.  Most webportals, include a guestbook that can be used to “track leads” on new potential business.  And, for clients, there is support for “member groups” so that you can publish articles specific to a client, based on the client’s login.

Most up to the Bigleague with a low budget

This is not to denigrate Sharepoint (from Microsoft) or some of the other bigger web portals.  There is a place for them.  But the starting price for those systems is easilly in the tens of thousands of dollars before you see a clear benefit.  By contrast, you can get a hosted web site ($50/month), a license to SubDreamer ($125) and engage a webdeveloper who can “skin” these sites for two days ($3,000) and you have a complete publishing platform and client support system.  You can replace the “pesky emails” that go awry with a secure, private threaded discussion forum that only you and your client can see.  And this will be a forum that you can see from an internet connected terminal, subject to proper login.

And the Reason I care

We are not in the web development system at Basha Systems, but we have invested hundreds of hours in learning these tools and applying document assembly object oriented programming principals to their development.  We use these tools to communicate effectively with our clients.  Our hope is that with these tools, our clients will be able to generate more business, and more revenue which can be reinvested into building profitable document assembly systems with HotDocs, GhostFill and Dealbuilder.

Cheers,

Seth

Application Support versus Software Support

Most of the work that we conduct for our clients is not “off the shelf-ware” but more, custom systems designed specifically to suit a practice.  So, do we offer regular “software support”, “application support” or something slightly different…

Related Link: Basha Systems Support Index

A recent conversation with a client has caused me to rethink the definition and scope of “support” in the context of delivering a “custom application” based on a publicly available software platform.  Below are some of the different buckets into which support support terms can be categorized:

Software Support is ….

Software support is typically where software companies make their residual revenue.  It is their reward for continually “tweaking the product” and making incremental revisions to the product.  The typical support contract is an annual fee of 20%.  Microsoft has its maintenance plans which entitles the user to both service releases and version upgrades under this plan.

Software support is sometimes viewed as “bug fixing” and “insurance”.  It is generally “passive support” … The software is supported means that if there is something fundamentally “wrong” with the software, the vendor will fix it, and won’t charge the licensed user for the fix.

Premium Support is ….

Applications Support is more active/pro-active.  This support includes providing explanations and help configuring and maintaining the software in a given environment.  As applied to case management, it generally means access to a call center to troubleshoot problems as they arise, problems that arise from the use of the software.

Custom Application Support is ….

Custom application support goes beyond premium support as it includes support for customization of the base software done by a consultant (e.g. HotDocs templates, Case Management feature packages etc).  The scope of this support will typically include explanations, mini-training and minor customizations to address erratta in the original system.

Prepaid Consulting Support is …

Prepaid consulting support is pro-active.  It is consulting that is limited to the custom built applications, but anticipates and address changes in templates, data tracking and processes that are the result of actual use, these are issues that could not have been fully anticipated (and therefore are not errata), but fall within the scope of a particular project.

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