Are You a Firewall to Your Own Success?

We probably found this funnier than we should have, but we’re a software company – what do you expect?

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Whether you identify with the fax-fanatic or the defeated presenter, hopefully you also found some humor in this. As a paperless organization, it’s intuitive for us to type notes that are automatically backed in a cloud, transfer video files through an online portal, and give virtual presentations via Microsoft Teams. But, all too often, we’re reminded by our colleagues, clients, partners and friends that digital communication is still not the norm.

Burned by the Firewall

We can get a healthy laugh out of this cartoon because it’s satirical of our very existence, which involves the daily battle of digging people’s heels out of the ground when it comes to digitally transforming their painfully paper-heavy processes. To us, going digital makes complete sense: your data is more secure, communicating is easier, efficiency, accountability and visibility are all increased, a few trees and some sanity are saved… the list goes on.

We could talk to you about the benefits of going paperless until we’re blue in the face and, if you’ve had the pleasure of working with us, you know we will. But we’ve come to learn that no matter how many facts we present from every possible angle, we’re not getting passed anyone’s firewall until they turn down the heat. If someone is a stickler on paper and manual procedures, they will incinerate our points with the flames of their implacability before our words have a chance to hit even one ear. Trust us, it happens all the time.

“Why Are You Not Paperless?”

You probably cringe more at this question than the once-per-year holiday dinner where your extended family interrogates every aspect of your personal life. But before you start flame throwing responses like, “it’s much too expensive!” or “the process isn’t broke – why fix it?” we ask that you think about the real reasons behind your apprehension –  growing pains and organization-wide changes are uncomfortable, and it requires a lot of preparation.

No judgment – we completely get it.

Take your time to research, talk to your industry’s thought leaders on paperless organizations, watch demos, and definitely consider the financial investment. Maybe read this article from the National Center for State Courts. But keep in mind that most organizations, and especially public-serving government agencies, are realizing they can no longer gamble sensitive information, data, and years of organizational know-how on the risk of paper, which can be lost, misfiled, easily neglected, or destroyed in natural disasters, like the tragic, unexpected California wildfires.

So What is the First Step to Going Paperless?

Be open to it. Understand what it means to “go paperless” (hint: it’s more than just emailing and/or eFiling). Take an inventory of your current infrastructure and procedures, and identify what’s not working or could be improved. Visualize the potential of your organization and set the goals to get there.

Once you have that, give us a call. We’ll partner with you to understand where your organization is  compared to where you want it to be and work hand-in-hand with you to establish blueprints for your paperless organization – even if we have to fax the initial plans to you.

We Want to Hear From You!

As much as we like to talk, we’re also great listeners! Leave your answer in the comment section below. We read and respond – promise!

Which persona do you identify with in the cartoon above? What is or was your biggest hurdle to digital transformation?

Want to stay updated on the latest government tech trends? Find the news directly in your social feed by following the ImageSoft Government Solutions showcase page.

 

From Crime to Courtroom: Multi-media Integrity

In a recent article from “Police Chief,” video evidence is described as the “silent witness that speaks for itself,” and that’s nothing but the truth. With the video, images, audio and metadata needed to playback crime scenes, it’s critical that multi-media evidence can be unmistakably seen and heard by the entire courtroom.

Many organizations, homeowners and investigative offices think evidence is safeguarded by investing in best-of-breed surveillance cameras. While it is helpful to have a quality source of evidence, it’s not doing  the judge, jury or the case any justice if the courtroom is using a worn-out projectors or older display technologies.

Projecting the Problems

A common consequence of poor projection methods and monitor displays is lost pixel data and, therefore, image quality. Even if a courthouse invests in a higher-end projection system (the best are around $20,000), the forecasted image still passes through the courtroom’s lighting and will be somewhat affected by the various beams. And don’t forget that projection screens inevitably fall victim to discoloration, which also impacts the projected image.

And if you think installing display monitors will close the case, think again. Like most organizations, courthouses don’t have the funding to continuously invest in new or various-sized monitors, so screens that are dated or disproportionate to the video or image’s size will again diminish the pixel resolution and overall quality of the evidence. Undersized monitors also lead to alterations of an object’s size or shape and color changes, which means evidence will still somehow be lost.

So the takeaway is to ensure that any video and image evidence has a resolution that corresponds with the courtroom’s display methods, right? Meh. If a tree falls but no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Same type of issue. Presenting high-quality, multi-media evidence is only half the battle. After all, if the jurors can’t see the evidence in question, can it truly impact their decision?

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The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) recommends the “3H” rule: viewers should be no more than three times the height of the picture away from the screen. Unfortunately, many jurors are seated much farther than this to truly witness the evidence on display and make an informed decision.

Ruling Out Evidence Obstructions

If you’re concerned about your courtroom’s technology infrastructure and overall blueprint, you have a few options. Consider surveying frequenting prosecutors, attorneys and even past jurors on their experiences with presenting and ingesting evidence. You should also do some homework on modern courtroom models, the strategies behind the designs and the effectiveness of each.

After conducting this internal audit and researching best practices, have a chat with your court’s trusted IT person and brainstorm budget-friendly ways to implement any necessary structural changes. After all, evidence serves as the retraced footsteps of a crime scene and communities rely on their court systems’ ability to walk justice from the crime scene to the courtroom.

We Want to Hear From You!

Do you think your courtroom needs a make-over? With an unlimited budget, what would you change about it?

Reply in the comments section below or on our Court Solutions showcase page. We read and respond – promise!

 

 

Her Name is CORA, and She’s the Future of Courts

175_coraShe can answer FAQs about any courthouse. She helps you search court dockets. She can even direct court visitors to where they need be, and she can do it all in either English or Spanish.

Who is she?

CORA, the Court-Operated Robotic Assistant, is the first robotic solution designed for a court setting. Named after Ottawa County, Michigan’s first female Probate Court judge, Hon. Cora VandeWater, CORA passed a week of pilot testing as the country’s first robotic court greeter during mid-November 2018 at the Ottawa County Grand Haven Courthouse. Quickly winning over both court workers and guests with her helpful assistance, dance moves and selfie skills, CORA went on to attend the National Center for State Court’s (NCSC) 2018 eCourts Conference in Las Vegas. There, she continued to make it easy for guests to look up the conference schedule, read court publications, watch videos and, of course, dance.

A Greater Purpose Behind Her Screen

While CORA offers immediate assistance on several levels, the comfort and convenience she is currently providing through smaller-scale tasks is actually contributing to a greater purpose  – bridging people into the future of court technology.

Rooted in tradition, courts tend to lag behind other industries when adopting new processes, especially when it comes to technology. But with undeniable elephants like access to justice sitting in every American courtroom, it’s becoming increasingly necessary that something be done. To face this challenge head-on, even many traditional judges, court clerks, and court managers are leveraging concepts like online dispute resolution (ODR), electronic filings (eFiling), workflows, and other court technologies to bridge  poor and middle-class citizens to the legal assistance they need. And with CORA now on board, many are enjoying a positive, first experience with the future of court operations.

Back to the Future…

CORA may take us by the hand into the future of court technology, but the digital transformation only just begins with her. Online dispute resolutions, for example, will lend themselves to more than just e-commerce disputes and start making access to justice more affordable and efficient for a variety of public-sector cases. And as courts decide which functionalities to leverage, they may build their own solutions with snap-on, best-of-breed components – a concept known as the Component Model – instead of marrying one vendor for the entire solution. And, as always, evidence management regarding footage from body cameras and surveillance video will continue to evolve.

Tell Me More

Because the bi-annual eCourts conference serves to encourage the dialogue of future courts innovations, these topics were all at the top of discussion. In attendance and immersed in the conversations was ImageSoft President, Scott Bade, who gave us a briefing on all things eCourts during the most recent episode of the Paperless Productivity Podcast. But if you’d rather just skim the details, this blog has your back.

 

We Want to Hear From You!

 

Are you pushing for your court to go paperless, or pushing out the very thought of it?

Tell us in the “comments” section below or on our Court Solutions Showcase page on LinkedIn. We read and respond – promise!

eCourts Uncovered: The 2018 Edition

If you follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, you’ve undoubtedly seen (and, hopefully, ‘Liked’!) a lot of hype about a little something called eCourts. We even published an eCourts blog about it being “the most wonderful time of the year,” and we stand by that.

P.S., if you need to brush up on what eCourts actually is, read that blog.

Scott Bade, President of ImageSoft Inc., was alongside several other ImageSoft team members at eCourts 2018 in Las Vegas, NV, from Dec. 10-12. About 24 hours after arriving back in Detroit, Scott was already briefing our Paperless Podcast team on the innovative, hot-button topics covered at the conference.

You’ll have to listen to the less-than-30-minute podcast to hear everything “Scott says” about the conference but, in case you can’t wait for our 2019 podcast debut, here’s a glimpse of what to expect.

Scott Says…

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Q: What made this year’s conference particularly interesting?

Scott: There has been a natural evolution of the court system. Now that most modern courts have adopted digital records management, they’re learning about how digitalize court processes – how information is flowing to and from clerks, attorneys, constituents, and the courts. So online dispute resolution (ODR), or intelligent dispute resolution (IDR), were definitely hot topics. ImageSoft has been an early advocate for ODR, so this was especially exciting for us. Imagine resolving legal disputes electronically without having to travel or be in the same, physical location as the other parties? That type of convenience is where the world is headed.

Q: What big-discussion topics seemed to thread throughout the conference?

Scott: The National Center for State Courts (NCSC), host of the bi-annual eCourts conference, has been talking a lot about the Component Model. For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, the Component Model allows courts to choose best-of-breed components instead of marrying one vendor for all their digital needs. This concept has allowed innovation to catalyze freely since smaller organizations can now compete. These open standards have been really good, and allow the systems to be interoperable.

We also had a lot of healthy conversations surrounding evidence management of larger data, such as that captured on law enforcement body cameras and surveillance video, and we even dipped into some old-school chat about digitizing paper forms for constituents to fill out online. A lot of courts have already done that, but some haven’t, so it’s important that we’re still talking about it.  And, of course, we talked about Integrated Justice Information Systems (IJIS), which sets the standards for electronic filing, which is a topic of which ImageSoft keeps its thumb on the pulse.

Q: Were there any thoughts on cloud computing floating around at the conference?

Scott: You know, we’re not hearing as much fear associated with the cloud as we used to. It’s actually becoming pretty mainstream for governments and courts. Which makes sense, because today’s constituents, our tax-payers, voters, and citizens, have grown up with technology integrated in their lives, and that’s not going in reverse. They’re demanding digital access to data because they know that type of ease and convenience is possible, and if the current courts or government don’t give that, a competitor will.  

Like what you’ve read? Make a New Year’s resolution to subscribe to The Paperless Productivity Podcast on Google Play or iTunes to hear all of Scott’s thoughts on eCourts 2018 and his predictions on the hottest topics for eCourts 2020.

We Want to Hear from You!

What topic do you think should be on eCourts’ agenda? What exciting innovations do you see on the horizon for the modern court system?

Respond in the comment section below, or on our Court Solutions Showcase page. We read and reply!

 

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – eCourts 2018!

The cold temperatures have arrived and they’ve brought the stress of the holiday season with them. Sounds like a good time to hop a plane to sunny and simple Las Vegas, right? We think so too, which is why we do so every other year for the bi-annual eCourts Conference. 169_eCourts.png

2018 eCourts Conference

Presented by the National Center for State Courts, the eCourts Conference is the jackpot for innovation-driven courts across the nation. The two-day summit immerses CIOs, judges, court managers, clerks, justice administrators and all eager-to-learn court personnel in the latest trends driving court technology. Not only will these sessions keep your thumb on the pulse of courtroom IT know-how, but it’s the perfect place to network, share and hear other’s experiences, and finally address the pressing issues that have been holding your court’s efficiency in contempt for far too long.

The Gift That Keeps Giving

While you’re trying to forget all the holiday hustle your family keeps texting you about, stroll over to booth #312 and meet some of the personality behind your favorite paperless process people! In addition to product experts, several members of our leadership team will also be hanging out in between note taking at their favorite sessions.

Things to talk to us about:

 

Can’t Wait to Warm Up?

Weather-wise, we can’t do much. After all, we are headquartered in southeast Michigan – the state that’s literally shaped like a piece of winter apparel.

But we can give you a pre-eCourts warm up on some of this year’s hot-button issues. Grab some hot chocolate and head over to: www.imagesoftinc.com/ecourts2018. After that…

We Want to Hear from You! Before eCourts.

If you haven’t already heard, we like to talk. But we’re also great listeners and we want to hear what you have to say.

In your opinion, what’s the best court solution to date? Will you be talking about it at eCourts this year?

Join our other, industry-specific conversations by following the LinkedIn page below that best fits your industry’s needs:

ImageSoft Court Solutions l ImageSoft Government Solutions l ImageSoft Insurance Solutions

When Failed Integration Turns into Wrongful Incarceration

By: Katie Pusz, Copywriter, ImageSoft

Unless you’re a part of the super cool, niche group of people that doesn’t talk much but, when you do, it’s about software, you probably don’t get too pumped up about the word “integration.” We, on the other hand, could talk about the transformative effects of powerfully integrative software until our smartwatches tell us to go home. Even then, we would stay late to show you a fun demo, but most people will have left by then anyways.164_Chance_go_to_jail

So when real-world examples of preventable integration fails have life-changing impacts on innocent people, we get all riled up.

What to Say When You’re Being Arrested for a Dismissed Case?

Not me. Well, that’s what one of the nation’s biggest names in software development is trying to say after its court case management system was the reason for dozens of defendants in a very populous county being wrongly accused, arrested, jailed, and even registered as sex offenders.

Worse yet, these incidents are not isolated. Distressed by the same errors, numerous courts across the nation are responding to the county’s claims with “us too!”

How Could This Happen?

We thought you’d never ask! Let us explain. Again.

Integration is key when trying to successfully leverage any software. This is especially crucial in court cases where real-time information about prisoners and warrants needs to flow statewide among prisons, officers, courts, and more.

In situations like the above, failure to integrate with a court’s case management system means mistakes. Big ones. A lot of them. This is because the same case information lives in multiple systems across the criminal justice system, but updating that information at the sheriff’s office doesn’t update it for the court. And vice versa.

Simply put, the case management systems among the courts, prisons, police departments, etc., can’t talk to one another if they’re not integrated. When this happens, the status quo of a case isn’t clarified across the board and people act based only on the information they have. Cue wrongful arrests.

So Integration is Just a Group Chat?

Not quite. By integrating case management systems, the efficiency of your processes and the integrity of your data are both strengthened. Not only is data safely stored and accessible by all authorized parties, you never have to re-key information into multiple systems. Once the data is in, it’s everywhere it needs to be and always up-to-date.

When you’re processing nearly 1,000 cases per week (as most counties do), the time and money saved by having an integrated software is kind of a big deal.

Ready for Integration That’s On Point?

We’ve helped hundreds of criminal justice systems throughout the country stay in immediate and constant communication by exchanging data and documents among law enforcement, prosecutors, courts and more with just the click of a button.

How so? Through our eFiling technology for civil courts, our LEAP portal for criminal filings, and with a little help from our friend OnBase by Hyland. OnBase has standard APIs that allow for the secure exchange of data and documents with virtually any system.

But more important than the technology, we’re a company that loves to do integrations – it’s in our DNA, and we can’t help but to take the lead on working with your technology vendors to get you where you need to be.

And if you ever want to stick around for that fun demo, we know a few people who would be happy to show you!

After hearing what has happened to innocent people in several courts across the country, do you feel your court is vulnerable to the same miscommunication? How could the components of your case management system be more in sync?

The Year in Review: Revolutionizing How Courts Adopt New Technologies

By Dave Hawkins, Chief Executive Officer, ImageSoft

goodbye-2017-welcome-2018-1024x5761_0ImageSoft enjoyed a banner year in 2017, growing our team by more than 20% and breaking all kinds of company records for new bookings, solutions implemented and delivery efficiency. Yet what excites us most is the way we’ve revolutionized how courts adopt new technologies. We’ve broken down long-standing barriers that have kept courts chained to monolithic systems, stifled in their efforts to modernize. Let me share a few highlights illustrating how ImageSoft is pioneering the Component Model in thought, word, and deed.

The Component Model in Thought

Court technology experts at organizations such as the National Center for State Courts, the National Association of Court Managers and the Conference of State Court Administrators all agree that the future of justice technology centers on the Component Model. Courts have traditionally been tied to a single technology vendor, resigning themselves to only those applications provided by that one vendor, or forced to absorb the high risk and financial outlay of attempting custom integrations with a new vendor’s products. ImageSoft, a 20-year veteran systems integrator, is changing all that. In September, we delivered a standing-room-only presentation on the Component Model at the Court Technology Conference in Salt Lake City, demonstrating how a best-of-breed approach allows courts to purchase solutions from a variety of vendors and make them work together seamlessly.

The key to this method rests in standardization of interfaces between components. Here again, ImageSoft has taken a leadership role by serving on the OASIS Legal XML Electronic Court Filing (ECF) Technical Committee, defining the ECF standards which have become a requirement for most new eFiling system procurements nationwide.

We also transformed our June customer event from our former justice-focused theme to a broader-based showcase of a variety of technologies. The shift was designed to let our court customers see how corporate and other governmental entities use OnBase by Hyland to facilitate automated workflow and document management. Many valuable lessons were learned by bringing our diverse clientele together under one roof to explore the possibilities. We invite you to join us for our next customer event, Velocity, February 27-28, 2018, in Novi, Michigan.

The Component Model in Word

Courts pursuing modernization face many challenges surrounding defining the scope and requirements for their initiatives. A language barrier creates confusion between court personnel and solution providers. Some vendors lack sufficient understanding of court processes, and many court staff cannot comprehend the technical jargon used by vendors. The result is that solutions delivered often fail to satisfy the original intent of the project sponsors.

Early in 2017, ImageSoft instituted a new approach to delivering justice solutions, blending the best aspects of waterfall and agile project management methodologies. On the front end, we employ a collaborative process of gathering requirements, aided by our decades of experience working with courts. Then, rather than writing hundreds of pages of technical specifications, we deliver a solutions requirements document (SRD) composed as user stories, written in the common language of court personnel. Each court staff member–judge, clerk, judicial assistant, prosecutor, administrator–can review their section of the SRD to ensure that their needs are appropriately captured and addressed.

On the back end, we build and deliver the solution iteratively, giving our clients the opportunity to see the system every two to four weeks, to ensure that we’ve stayed true to their goals. This process not only keeps the project on track, but also provides early training sessions to enable court staff to gain more familiarity with the new system well before go-live. They can also see how well the new solution will integrate with their existing CMS—a sneak preview of the Component Model in action.

The Component Model in Deed

We do not, however, merely think and talk about the Component Model. We deliver it. In May, the Michigan State Court Administrative Office contracted with us to bring a statewide eFiling solution to over 240 courts, selecting us in part due to our ability to integrate with various case management systems. Dozens of such CMS products are in use across the Great Lakes State’s 83 counties, and we have taken on the task of interfacing with them while implementing eFiling. We have already succeeded with four pilot courts, which utilize a mix of big-name vendor CMS products and locally-developed systems.

We also brought the Component Model to life at Cleveland Municipal Court, one of the nation’s largest, where we coupled the superior document management capabilities of OnBase with the court’s existing commercial off-the-shelf CMS. A paperless court since November, Cleveland Municipal’s documents are now stored and routed electronically to improve security, efficiency and accessibility.

Looking Ahead

As the justice technology community continues to extol the benefits of the Component Model in thought and word, ImageSoft will continue to deliver it in deed. Already for 2018, we have numerous projects in the works for state agencies and large municipalities seeking to modernize their court systems using a best-of-breed strategy. We look forward to leading the charge, helping courts nationwide ease their way into 21st century innovation, one component at a time.

What the “Third Wave” Means for Court Technology

By Dave Hawkins, CEO, ImageSoft

I attended the Inc. magazine GrowCo Conference in New Orleans last month. Somewhere between the seafood gumbo, the crawfish étouffée, and the jumbalaya, Steve Case of AOL fame served up a prophetic message based on his newly revised book, The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future. The title refers to the evolution of the Internet. The First Wave fostered the creation of the Internet with the requisite infrastructure – servers, cabling, network switches, portals, service providers, and the like. Companies such as Cisco, NetGear, CompuServe, Prodigy, NetScape and America Online rose to prominence, while Microsoft, Intel, HP, Gateway, and Dell grew rapidly by virtue of the new demand for personal computers and related software.

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The Second Wave consisted of all the apps built to run on the Internet. This wave included tech firms providing new types of networking and social media services previously unavailable anywhere, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. It spawned new Internet-only retailers, most notably Amazon, as well as new ways to buy things, such as the online auction service provided by eBay. At the same time, the Second Wave saw the meteoric rise of eCommerce from brick-and-mortar chains that transitioned to online retailing. Department stores, booksellers, pharmacies, and even automakers discovered they needed to forge new online identities to keep their customer bases from dissipating.

The Third Wave will involve the transformative integration of the Internet into all facets of everyday life. In the future, calling a device “Internet-enabled” will sound as silly as calling something “electricity-enabled” today. Steve Case highlighted several major arenas in which the Third Wave will bring revolutionary progress: education, healthcare, transportation, food production and city management. In healthcare, for example, Third Wave technologies will facilitate much greater precision in medicine, allowing doctors to edit genetic code using the power of genomics and data analytics. Fitness trackers will evolve into hardware and software for capturing a full range of vital signs on a daily basis, collecting and analyzing the data to alert patients and their doctors of potential health issues before they happen. When you go to see the doctor, they will already have this data to help answer their diagnostic questions such as “When did it start bothering you?” The implications for disease management, home health care, and epidemic tracking are astounding.

But what about the justice industry, which is ImageSoft’s primary area of expertise? What will the Third Wave bring in the way of improving the American justice system? Today, even courts that go “paperless” still use paper at some point in the case-processing chain. They may, for example, offer eFiling, but print the file once received, or perhaps keep it electronic until a judge needs to sign it, and then have it printed at that point. In the Third Wave, courts will seamlessly integrate tools to keep case records electronic from start to finish. On the front end, lawyers, police officers, and even self-representing litigants will have the ability to eFile documents to initiate a case, and may utilize automated document package creation to expedite their initial case filings. These tools will be particularly helpful for the poor, the disabled, the medically incapacitated, and incarcerated persons to give them much greater access to justice than is available today. New tools will also allow simple cases such as traffic violations to be handled remotely; imagine being able to contest your speeding ticket without needing to take a half day off work to go to court.


Read here how courts can stay electronic from start to finish.

 

Once a case is initiated, the documents can remain electronic throughout the court process via document management and workflow tools to enable access for all parties to a case as well as the related court personnel. Closing a case can also stay electronic, as new eSignature tools are structured to focus on speed and reduce cumbersome repetitive steps, which were impediments associated with older products.

Case cited three factors which will be of utmost importance during this Third Wave: partnerships, policy, and perseverance. As I listened to him speak, I contemplated the changes that are already taking place in the justice technology arena. Forward-thinking court systems are partnering with technology vendors to integrate best-of-breed solutions to automate all aspects of the court process. As for policy, institutes such as the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards, or OASIS, have piloted policy initiatives to standardize eFiling compliance nationwide. Through it all, perseverance will certainly be required to bring the justice system’s “late adopters” into this next wave of technological advancement.

ImageSoft is working alongside our partners Hyland (makers of OnBase for enterprise content management), Mentis (which offers aiSmartBench and other court tools), and Court Innovations (which provides Matterhorn online dispute resolution system) to reshape the court technology landscape to meet the demands of the Third Wave.

By the time I left New Orleans, I was “jazzed” thinking about the possibilities. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with others to create a better future for our courts and their many constituents.

What do you think of Steve Case’s vision for the future?

 

Finding the Silver Linings of Cloud Computing

By: Jenny Bunch, Product Owner, ImageSoft

127_cloudsilverlinigWhat’s all the fuss about cloud computing? Courts, like private businesses, are recognizing the advantages of the cloud that range from cost savings to scalability. Cloud-based solutions leverage a software delivery model that is remotely hosted and accessed over the internet. It is a significant shift from the traditional approach of premise-based software solutions. It turns out that “moving to the cloud” is creating easier, more secure access to not just the applications, but more importantly – the data stored on those applications.

Let’s discuss four advantages to leveraging cloud-hosted solutions for case management technologies. But first, let’s look at the differences between “cloud-like” solutions versus “real” cloud-hosted solutions.

Some cloud-like solution providers establish data centers where they host the hardware and software that would otherwise be installed at a court. They provide the infrastructure and access to the courts in a cloud-like manner.

Contrast this approach with solutions built using real cloud services, such as Microsoft’s Azure Cloud or Amazon Web Services (AWS), which manage global networks of data centers, with integrated tools for building and deploying applications and highly scalable and redundant storage options.

Only a real cloud-based solution approach provides the silver lining of these four advantages.

Advantage #1: Cost
With the budget challenges courts face today, minimizing costs of operations is essential. With cloud-hosted solutions, courts can reduce IT costs because they do not need to procure servers and other hardware and software that support the business applications. Because users are accessing the application over the internet and the service provider is hosting the applications and supporting infrastructure, courts need only pay for the use of the applications they are subscribing to. Costs associated with managing a data center, including the technology and human resources expenses, are reduced or eliminated. Essential personnel needed to oversee server rooms can be redirected to other strategic tasks. Further, courts can reduce hiring for specialized knowledge of particular hardware or software needed to run specialized applications.  In addition, courts outsourcing IT assistance can have access to more options while maintaining the status quo on resourcing.


Read about the JusticeTech TrueFiling solution in the cloud. 


Advantage #2: Scalability
Did someone say “just-in-time”? Cloud computing supports an age-old approach to reducing costs by offering an on-demand solution to system resources. With a premise-based system, courts must often procure enough resources to handle the projected yearly growth and the peak-time volume, which results in unused resources. Further, courts that secure the “minimum system requirements” are basing their calculations off of average volumes and often find that the infrastructure is not robust enough to support the unforeseen need or anticipated efficiency the solution promises when it is needed the most.

With cloud computing, courts have the flexibility to add or reduce resources as needed and do it almost instantly.

Consider the following. With a cloud solution, courts can set processing power to automatically increase for periods of time when volume increases, such as arraignment and motion blocks and then reduce it at night and on weekends. The cloud meets the growing need to store large amounts of digital evidence, such as police cam videos, and provide on-demand access from multiple devices. True scalability. Crisis averted!

Advantage #3: Anytime, Anywhere Secure Data Access
Providing access to court data and documents electronically and on-demand is more important than ever before. But so is the ability to secure that data while making it available. Cloud-hosting gives courts the ability to share information more easily without opening their own network to risk because the data is not stored on the court’s network. Services like Azure provide the tools and services necessary to share and integrate multiple applications securely. So if a judge needs to sign a warrant in the middle of the night or access case files over the weekend, IT managers don’t have to sweat it with a cloud-hosted solution.

Of course, some court managers might roll their eyes at ”anytime” access as they are too familiar with hearing, “the system is down again.” But, cloud services provide tools and solutions for offline computing and high availability service agreements that get users closer to ”anytime” than ever before, thus reducing concerns that court operations will slow as they become more reliant on the electronic file instead of paper.

Advantage #4: High Availability
Hardware and network failures happen. As back office work and courtrooms are increasingly simplified by technology, court managers must be concerned with system availability from multiple perspectives.  Beyond disaster recovery, some other considerations are system performance and uptime. True cloud-hosted solutions change the conversation from preventing downtime and failures to minimizing the impact through resilient design methods and systematic response.[1]

For example, systems can be built so that one service failure doesn’t negatively impact other areas or so that essential business functions can continue while others may be slowed or stopped while the system or service is restored.

Also, cloud computing offers multiple data recovery and redundancy options from multiple replicas within a single data center to replications across data centers in different zones or regions in addition to the local replicas. This can guard against entire region failures. Further, data can be accessed and written to the primary or secondary location (and more) depending on the business requirements for data loss and recovery time.

The Take Away
As courts are considering renewing and updating technology needs, managers should be comparing their current technology and infastructure to modern computing and storage methods leveraging the cloud and its advantages. Moreover, when weighing options, court managers should be sure to understand the difference between true cloud versus cloud-like to ensure the maximum payoff.

Have you had a recent experience with a cloud-based solution?

Jenny Bunch can be reached at: (jbunch@imagesoftinc.com).


[1] Microsoft. Designing resilient applications for Azure. March 24, 2017. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/architecture/resiliency/

 

 

 

eFiling is Coming Soon to your State – The Advantages of Mandatory vs. Permissive eFiling

By Brad Smith, Senior Justice Consultant, ImageSoft

When I started working on my first state and local court electronic filing project in 1998, I truly felt that it would be adopted much like computer assisted legal research offered by LexisNexis and Westlaw.

Here we are, nearly 20 years later, and state and local courts are finally dipping their toes into the eFiling water. iStock_000011704687_Medium

Unlike the Federal Courts CM/ECF (Case Management / Electronic Files) system which started mandating electronic filing in the early 2000s, state courts have struggled with adopting electronic filing, let alone making the decision to mandate eFiling for civil and criminal cases.

Texas launched an eFiling portal in 2003, which allowed for permissive eFiling on a county-by-county basis. What the state realized after 10-plus years of “go-lives” and an 18 percent adoption rate, is that permissive eFiling is a nightmare for the attorneys, Clerk of Courts offices and the judges.


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For the attorneys and their staff, it becomes very difficult to keep track of which cases or jurisdictions allow for eFiling and which do not. For firms operating statewide in Texas, for example, that would mean your legal assistants / paralegals would need to monitor cases in all 254 counties.

For Clerk of Courts, permissive eFiling presented challenges as well. The office processes an incredible number of cases each year and workflow is critical to keeping the court records accurate and available to the public, attorneys and judges in their jurisdiction. In the permissive environment, the clerk’s staff now needs to operate both a paper workflow queue and an electronic workflow queue to maintain the court records, which adds time and complexity to their jobs.

Even judges, who traditionally use paper court files even when their clerk’s office has taken the time and effort to scan over the counter filings, do not have timely access to electronic court records in a permissive eFiling environment. The steps that are required to convert paper pleadings into electronic images (intake, scan and file) can take up to 24 hours, while eFiled pleadings processed by the clerks’ staff are immediately accessible to the judges via their document management system or judicial dashboard.

The Advantages of Mandated eFiling

Just in the last four years, Florida (Civil and Criminal) and Texas (Civil) have mandated eFiling, while Indiana and Illinois have released mandatory eFiling schedules for 2017 and 2018. While it’s not surprising news by itself, the fact that these mandates are taking place in states that do not have a statewide case management system is encouraging.

It is my hope that the next wave of states in the early eFiling planning stages use the lessons learned by their Supreme Court / Administrative Office of the Courts colleagues and bypass permissivie eFiling to move straight to mandatory eFiling, which will benefit all stakeholders involved.

Which approach has your court considered?