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Cloud computing for lawyers: the 10 best reasons to make the change.

Cloud computing for lawyersCloud computing for lawyers has been around for some time now. Yet, there are still many legal practitioners who shy away from it. Perhaps it still seems “safer” to control your client and office data on your own kit.

On the surface, it does seem safer and simpler to have the crown jewels of your legal business under lock and key on your own premises. However, there are many other ways to unlock the door in the modern world.

Security is just one issue to rethink. Here is a list of 10 reasons to help you change your mind.

1. Security.

As I mentioned earlier, many think this is the safest option from a security point of view. It’s the Ken Dodd approach. Hiding cash under your mattress may seem safer than putting it in the bank. Until your house burns down. It really isn’t that simple nowadays. Data security isn’t just about physical threats.

Let’s look at the physical issues. Data in a cloud server farm lives in a carefully curated, secure, monitored environment. It isn’t open to the threats of burglary or fire. It’s actually much safer there than it is in your office.

It’s also safer in the cloud from a cybercrime point of view. Server farms use state of the art security which they update constantly to deal with the latest threats. They also update the practice management and accounts software you run on the cloud to meet these threats too. When was the last time you updated your Windows or Office software on your in-house server? Are you running the latest software versions and patches?

If you are thinking about basic GDPR compliance, think cloud.

2. Updates.

That last point leads nicely into the next. Operating system, Office and practice management software take time to be updated on your own kit. This can mean downtime and loss of productivity.

On the cloud, updates either happen seamlessly without your knowledge or at 2am on a Sunday morning when you are fast asleep. There is no real downtime.

3. Goodbye VPN.

With an exclusively office-based server set up, you are pretty much chained to the office. VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) allow you to circumvent this problem by hooking you up to your office server when you are out and about.

The problem with VPNs is that they can fall over – as can your own server. Cloud-based practice management software is available at all times without a VPN. All you need is a basic internet connection – and you have one of those on your phone.

4. Flexibility.

Again, the last point dovetails nicely into the next. The fact that your data and your software are stored in a location that is accessible from anywhere, means that you can work from anywhere.

You can access client files from court, home, on holiday or when you visit your clients. Better still, with the correct type of “portal” approach you can give your clients access to their data and collaborate with them on the case.

5. Scalability.

We all know that servers cost a pretty penny to purchase and maintain. More on that later. When you invest in a new one, you probably set a specification that comfortably exceeds your needs in terms of processing power and storage. The problem is, needs change over time.

Growth of your business may lead to new staff. A surge in the market may call for temporary employees. Then it’s: “Uh oh, we need a new, more powerful server… again!” Servers are an expensive hobby. Cloud servers are a prudent, cost-effective alternative.

In a nutshell, cloud servers are absolute behemoths. Processing power or user numbers are not issues. You can scale your needs up or down to cope with fluctuating workloads without increased capital expenditure. An additional 3 or 4 monthly subscriptions for new staff is more cost-effective than buying and commissioning a new on-premise server.

6. Storage.

The storage benefit is two-fold.  Cloud-based practice management solutions have plenty of of storage space to accommodate even the largest batches of case files and other materials. Scanned documents and photography can quickly fill up even the largest on-premise servers. On the cloud, this just isn’t an issue. You can set the amount you need for storage and upgrade or downgrade it as you see fit.

Secondly, in an on-premise solution, you have to schedule and store backups. Backups can take a long time and occupy an inordinate amount of space on whatever medium you choose to use. The cloud approach is different. Backups are taken in the background automatically. Many cloud software providers do this not just in duplicate but in triplicate. It does not tie up space and time and it does not get overlooked.

Overlooking backups on your own server does happen and, in the event of a fire or some other catastrophic failure, can cause you real problems. The cloud caters for this eventuality and removes the burden from your shoulders.

7. Efficiency.

Cloud-based applications and data are accessible from almost any internet-connected device. That means you can gain access to them where you like and when you like.

It’s not just a case of just being able to access your data when you can’t get to the office. There is a bigger picture. Use of the cloud can dramatically improve well-being in the workplace and quality of life. Providing your staff with a means to allow flexible, remote working, extends your options. Something as simple as not having to endure the twice daily commute every day of the week improves quality of life. Catering for the needs of people with young children through flexible working patterns is also a winner.

The bottom line is, providing these options to your team leads to greater productivity and efficiency. That means higher profitability.

8. Cost savings.

This is the big one. On-premise hardware and software systems are costly. The upfront capital costs are significant and the storage, maintenance and running costs are not to be sneezed at. Then there’s the cost of IT support people – either in-house or contracted out.

Whether it is cheaper to use cloud service providers or run your own show, all depends upon your specific workplace needs. However, what is not in doubt is improved cashflow. High initial set-up costs for your own services are eliminated by a cloud solution. That’s money in the bank.

If you find a reputable cloud practice management software supplier, your relationship with them will most likely work on a monthly subscription basis. Again, this is a cashflow friendly alternative.

9. Support.

All hardware and software will, at some stage, need support in some shape or form. If you choose an on-premise solution, you will have to provide that for yourself or farm it out.

Most IT support people agree that a disproportionate amount of their working week gets tied up handling minor IT support requests. That’s not really the most productive use of their time.

Moving to a cloud practice management provider means your server support issues and backup needs are effectively eliminated. But be careful out there. When it comes to software support, choose your cloud supplier wisely. Some only offer chat line support. Others farm out support (and training) to third parties with a varying degree of efficacy. The minimum you should expect from software support is to be able to speak to someone in the UK that is employed directly by the provider and who understands their product inside out.

10. Competitive advantage?

Think strategically. Will a move to the cloud impact beneficially on your competitive position? If you tie up less capital, if you need less time for support and backup and you achieve efficiencies, you are ahead of the game. If security is no longer a concern, storage and scaling are minor issues and your workforce is highly efficient and motivated, you are ahead of most of the legal competition.

For me, those are all very compelling reasons to take a look at the benefits of cloud computing for lawyers. But don’t take my word for it, take a look at what LawWare’s clients have to say.

Mike O’Donnell, July 2019.

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