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Why so many legal practices are moving to the cloud

legal cloudThe last few years have seen an enormous growth in legal cloud usage. According to the Cloud Industry Forum, the trend looks set to continue over the coming years with no slow-down.

So, what are the major advantages of running your practice on the cloud-based model? Let’s take a look at some of the obvious and not quite so obvious reasons.

Accessibility.

This is a key benefit of being cloud based. It means you can access your case management and other cloud data from anywhere that has an internet connection. So, whether you’re in the office, on holiday, at court, meeting a client or at home, your data is available.

It’s not only location that defines accessibility; hardware counts too. Cloud services are accessible from your desktop, laptop, or tablet and, in most cases, from your mobile phone.

There are additional benefits too. You can introduce flexible working or even hot-desking which will help you to reduce office overheads. Lastly, it’s worth considering the virtual practice option. Most virtual legal practices use some form of cloud-based environment to do business effectively and keep costs to a minimum.

Affordability.

If you’re used to running your office systems from an in-house server, you’ll be familiar with the costs:

  • The upfront cost of the server itself.
  • The fact that it needs replacing periodically.
  • The costs associated with software updates.
  • Maintenance and servicing.
  • Hiring IT specialists or outsourcing to an IT consultancy.

Using the cloud, all you need to run an effective practice management and accounting system is a good, reliable internet connection. The fact that the software is cloud-based will eliminate up-front costs and maintenance charges along with expensive staffing and outsourcing bills.

Scaleability.

The cloud offers economies of scale that simply don’t come with a traditional server-based approach. If you are gearing up to deal with a spike in casework, it’s straightforward to purchase more licences for your practice management software. When no longer required, you can reduce these to their original number without cost implications.

The cloud allows you to streamline your IT overheads to meet your business needs and not the needs of expensive in-house technology.

Security.

legal cloudSecurity is one of the biggest question marks when it comes to cloud-based practice management. It needn’t be. The fact that your case files are stored somewhere in the ether actually makes them much more secure.

Cloud-based legal practice management software and data are stored on one of many major hosting platforms within the UK. The people who provide this service take security very seriously and the good ones are ISO 27001 certified.

This is part of the ISO 27000 family of standards relating to information and cyber security and offers a comprehensive set of controls based on best practice in information security. The accreditation shows the host’s compliance with regulatory and contractual requirements regarding data security, privacy and IT governance.

The upgrade question also plays a part here. Cloud-based practice management gives you the certainty of optimum performance and enhanced data security because you will be using the newest operating systems and platforms to host your data.

Reliability.

This is where the cloud really comes into its own. If your own server fails, you are in the hands of your IT staff or suppliers. Or in the event of a major disaster, you must have the ability to re-build your network quickly and have up-to-date copies of your backups available.

All IT hardware can fail from time to time. However, cloud-based systems have mechanisms that can mirror your data to a different location to ensure it is immediately available. Backups are usually taken in triplicate and with much greater frequency than on-premise solutions. Cloud “server farms” also have auxiliary electricity generation capability to combat power outages.

So, should your premises burn to the ground, with a laptop and a new location, you can be up and running again on the same day.

The only cautionary point about the cloud is your internet connection. It is essential that this is reliable and provides sufficient bandwidth for you to connect to your cloud resources speedily.

Legal cloud or not?

When it all boils down to it, I’m a pragmatist. I’m seldom interested in business management ideas that look good on paper – they have to work and be an asset.

Many legal practices can put a strong, coherent business case together for retaining their own IT infrastructure, whilst others will appreciate the flexibility that the cloud has to offer. Indeed, there are practice management systems on the market that can operate both on your own server or on the cloud.

On balance, with the benefits of a cloud-based approach so obvious, it really is worth examining your options carefully.

For more detailed information on the legal cloud, visit this link.

Mike O’Donnell, February 2017.

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