Cloud computing for law firms still remains a hotly debated subject. For a practice management software provider like LawWare, the issue determines our product offerings. Sales of cloud-based solutions dominate but we also offer an “own server” version.
That’s just our response to the demands of the market. However, how do you know which is the right solution for you? It’s all about understanding the technology and that means looking at the real benefits of cloud.
This article is part of a series that will look at several areas of consideration. Initially we’ll take a look at the benefits and the key questions to ask. The second article will cover what to look for in a cloud supplier and what your contract should contain. The final one will tackle data and other issues that you need to address.
Let’s get the ball rolling by looking at the pros and cons.
Going cloud essentially means using computing resources that are not on your premises. That’s the first key point to understand. In many respects it’s a key shift in both thinking and control of your resources. The benefits that accrue from making the shift include:
It all sound great doesn’t it? In fact, it sounds exactly like the patter you’d expect to hear from someone who markets cloud practice management software for a living! Surely there must be a few drawbacks?
Maybe there are, but in my experience, these are simply concerns rather than real risks or challenges. When people ask me about cloud computing for law firms, one key concern raises its ugly head: security. It’s a two-horned beast – physical security and cyber security.
This is always a major concern. It comes from the idea that your data is safer on your own premises, under your control and with you responsible for protecting it.
Cyber attacks come in many forms. However, the most frequent source emanates from exploiting software that is not regularly updated or no longer supported. To keep ahead in this game, you have to continually invest in updating all your software applications to the latest versions. One moment of laxity can be very costly. Be honest, do you do this at the moment?
Naturally, if you keep on top of your updates all should be fine – apart from the downtime during office hours when updates are being applied. Cloud software providers continually update all the software they run, and they do it out of hours to minimise downtime.
So, what about physical threats to your data? With data stored on your own premises, you may feel secure in the knowledge that it is free from physical damage and theft if not from unanticipated power outages. You are probably keeping an off-site backup of the data in a fire-proof container too – or are you?
The bottom line is this: how secure is your office environment? If you are based in the local High Street, your data (servers) are open to theft. If your backups are stored there, so are they. Should you happen to be located next door to a take-away with a dodgy fire and safety record, you could be looking at catastrophic failure when you return to work the next day. How long will it take you to recover?
Let’s nail this one. LawWare’s data centres are as secure as a nuclear bunker. In fact, one of them is an ex Cold War nuclear bunker under the fields of Lincolnshire! It has state of the art fire and safety protection together with climate control and its own, secondary power generation system as a fail-safe. It also backs up your data in triplicate and, in the event of all that going wrong, it will move data to another data centre, and you will be able to carry on working.
Which do you think is the most secure system?
So, if cloud computing is looking more appealing, what’s the best way to proceed? My advice would be to take three things into consideration: your business needs, your clients’ needs and what kind of cloud supplier is suitable to address both.
Think strategically about your business before you rush in headlong. Cloud computing will probably not provide all your IT needs. Integrated practice management and accounts software is, however, a big part of the picture. So, perhaps this is as good a place as any to start. Remember, whichever system you choose, it should be more efficient than the one you have and provide functionality you did not have previously. Otherwise, the only determining factor is cost.
Clients are paramount and it is their data that you will be storing in the cloud. They will expect their data to be held securely and safely in a GDPR compliant manner. Secondly, the onus is upon you as the controller of their data. That means that if the data is going to be held outside the European Economic Area, you need to ascertain that the security arrangements comply with GDPR arrangements relating to international transfers of said data.
That all sounds complicated. Cut to the chase. Choose a cloud supplier that stores your clients’ and your own data in the UK. Keep it simple.
For practice management and accounts software, choose a specialist rather than a generalist. The Solicitor’s Accounts Rules require specialist software to ensure your compliance. That done, look for a practice management supplier that specialises in the English or Scottish legal systems. Then, with a much smaller shortlist, ask each candidate a series of questions:
That last one will show you know your onions and will make suppliers stand to attention!
Cloud computing for law firms is all about ensuring you and your clients get tangible benefits from the move. It’s also about being careful in your choice of supplier. However, there are other due diligence factors to consider.
I’ll take a look at these in the next article in this series. By then, you should have had time to draw up your shortlist of suppliers. 🙂
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Our clients range from small start-up legal practices to multi-partner, multi-site firms.
Another great customer service experience from LawWare. My laptop had to be stripped back to factory settings as part of a repair - taking hours! In contrast, restoring LawWare took one phone call to the support team and I was up and running in 6 minutes. If only everything was so easy!
As the first commercial user of LawWare back in 1998, we have had no hesitation in remaining with the product through its development. We thoroughly recommend it to any firm looking for a practice management system.
The helpdesk is exceptionally good. Whatever the query there is always a human being there to help. No leaving messages or being advised to go to a website. The best computer service for solicitors I have ever used!
The linking of documents and casefiles saves so much time! I have experience of several accounts packages and I like that LawWare is simple to use and easy to learn. Support is quick and effective and staff are helpful and courteous.
I have worked with a number of Case Management providers over the years but have not come across anything with the attention to detail and thoroughness of LawWare. My colleagues and I have not been disappointed.
I can’t imagine trying to be a law firm in the 21st Century without 21st Century IT systems. Having a ‘single system’ that underpins all the work, whether we are in the office or out, is an integral part of what we are building.
The level of support is the main benefit using this system. The system itself once you have had training is simple and easy to use. We have a great relationship with LawWare and the ongoing support is second to none.
Significant preparation was required to configure and import the data from our old firm. We had to get all clients onto the new system and then learn how to use it. We just find it very easy to use, much easier than our old system.
Being a busy litigator with a growing firm it is incredibly useful to be able to view my files from any location with some form of internet connection. I am a fan, and want to keep working with LawWare to make a good product great.
The switch to the new LawCloud system, which is still on-going, has gone very well. We found the LawWare team without exception to be very helpful and knowledgeable. All queries are followed up and dealt with promptly.