The Right Tools Are Needed to Protect Data While Promoting Collaboration

Products from Cisco, Microsoft and others help employees be both secure and productive.


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Andy Jurczyk spends a lot of time thinking about security. As CIO of law firm Seyfarth Shaw, he has to ensure attorneys are complying with clients’ industry regulations.

That means adhering to stringent healthcare or finance regulations at times, and managing sensitive personnel information when the firm is handling labor and employment work. 

“To comply with those demands from clients, we need to look at adequate security measures to protect the data,” he says.

Today’s employees have new expectations about how to do their work. As collaboration tools have become ubiquitous in the workplace and at home, people demand to be able to connect with colleagues seamlessly and remotely via voice, video or text, as well as to share data and files from any device in any location. 

As a result, IT departments across industries have been pressed to find unified collaboration tools that meet those expectations without compromising security.

“Unified collaboration technology’s bi­ggest strength is also its biggest weakness, which is that it’s unified,” says Laura DiDio, principal of Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, a tech research firm. “You have a lot of disparate technologies — Voice over IP, video, chat, email — in this one unified messaging system. You put a lot of eggs in one basket, so if something goes wrong, there’s more collateral damage.”

MORE FROM BIZTECH: See why cloud security is critical for business growth.

Telecommunications Is the Key to Collaboration

Seven years ago, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw was preparing to retire. He was based in California, and the associate taking over his cases was in Illinois. Using Cisco Jabber, the two attorneys shared files and stayed in close contact via instant messaging, videoconferencing and phone calls.

Those interactions paved the way for organizational changes to support collaboration technologies and telecommuting.

Using Jabber became standard operating procedure for employees, but it was contained to the firm’s private cloud. Attorneys had no comparable way to collaborate with clients until Cisco announced that Webex Teams uses a single encryption key.

“It’s the first product that you can actually use with people outside your enterprise and still maintain the security,” Jurczyk says. “In the legal industry, that single encryption key is make or break. If you can’t do that, you can’t do the cloud.

With Cisco’s ­collaboration tools, Andy Jurczyk, CIO of law firm Seyfarth Shaw, knows that ­client data is secure. Photography by Bob Stefko.

“I am the sole possessor of the encryption key,” he adds. “I’m the only one who can unlock my data, which is hosted in their cloud. That would satisfy the security requirements of the companies we serve.”

Other collaboration tools use shared keys, so in the case of a subpoena, vendors could unlock the data and turn it over to authorities

“So, for a lot of firms, it is difficult to use cloud collaborative services because all of that becomes discoverable,” Jurczyk explains.

Lawyers at Seyfarth Shaw still use Jabber regularly for sidebar conversations during negotiations, to message each other and to stay in sync during meetings. 

But their exchanges aren’t saved as a network record. The threads on Jabber are deleted regularly.

Webex Teams, on the other hand, stores every interaction with a client. Traditionally, for attorneys to gather client information, they would have to go through emails, the firm’s financial system and their research notes. 

With Teams, they can store every interaction with a client in a single, searchable platform. “It’s packaged in that one convenient store that you can then move into a records retention system,” Jurczyk says.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: Here are some tips for businesses trying to navigate changing security frontiers.

Consolidated Suites Make Data Easier to Organize

Cox Automotive standardized on Microsoft’s unified collaboration suite to bring together its disjointed workforce. The Atlanta-based organization spent most of the past decade acquiring companies, and with each acquisition came a new set of collaboration tools that employees used.

“We found ourselves with a large suite of products that were redundant,” says Lynee Willison, senior manager of service delivery at Cox Automotive.

The extra applications were costly and difficult to maintain and secure, she says: “None of these tools were governed behind a single sign-on platform, so folks could come and go and take their licenses with them, and we would never know it." 

In the legal industry, that single encryption key is make or break. If you can’t do that, you can’t do the cloud.”
Andy Jurczyk

CIO, Seyfarth Shaw

Meanwhile, data was spread across several local and cloud-based platforms, which further justified the move to a consolidated collaboration platform, says Brian Scott, director of workspace engineering for Cox Automotive.

“It’s taken us two-and-a-half years to get a handle on what’s out there, who’s using it, what tools are necessary and to get everyone onto a single platform,” adds Willison. “People were sharing accounts and passwords and all of these things that are big no-nos from a security perspective. Once everything’s managed behind Office, those security risks go away.”

Last fall, Cox Automotive transitioned to Microsoft as its enterprise c­ollaboration platform and rolled out Microsoft OneDrive and Microsoft Teams companywide. 

The shift to OneDrive also simplified the next big project, a PC refresh in January. Since employees had already been storing their data on OneDrive, they didn’t have to upload it to the cloud to transfer it to their new PCs. 

“That’s been a huge time saver in this PC refresh,” says Scott.

There have been challenges. It’s hard to convince employees to stop using applications that make them productive and to learn something new. “People are very passionate about some of the tools they use,” says Robert Earich, associate vice president of team member services at Cox Automotive. 

For Collaboration Tools, Compliance Is Key

Like Seyfarth Shaw, ThrivePass must comply with the regulations of its customers. The Denver-based company, which offers a comprehensive platform for managing employee benefits suites, serves many healthcare organizations, so it is governed by HIPAA. 

“Security is important to our clients, and we take it seriously as well,” explains CEO Andreas Deptolla. “Everything that we touch, we have to make sure it has the highest security standards so that we are in compliance.

Because ThrivePass’s co-founders, Deptolla and board member Wade Rosen, spent years working as service providers for Microsoft, they knew the technology well.


Number of terabytes of data that Cox Automotive transferred to Microsoft OneDrive

Source: Brian Scott, Cox Automotive

They wanted to provide employees with modern tools that offer a lot of functionality and security, and Microsoft was a natural choice. They added Microsoft Teams to their Office 365 suite earlier this year for a few reasons.

First, they needed a collaboration suite that was secure and HIPAA compliant, which Microsoft guarantees. Another reason was consolidation. “I don’t want to have a slew of different applications out there,” he adds.