Cloud computing for solicitors’ practices is a much talked about subject at the moment. But is it just about saving money?
Granted, cost savings affect the bottom line positively. However, you must be careful that they don’t also adversely affect client service and consequently, new business generation and turnover.
So, is legal cloud computing a win – win? Can it save you money and improve client service? Let’s take a look at both sides of the coin.
The main areas where the cloud can save you money are broadly categorised as these:
Let’s take a look at each of these in turn.
There may be a whole list of reasons why your firm is managing its own servers and associated hardware. A belief that your own kit is intrinsically more secure or the fact that you have always done it that way are the usual suspects. Your in-house or outsourced IT people may also have a vested interest in convincing you to stick to the status quo.
The traditional method means that you face significant up-front, capital costs. Servers do not come cheap. They have a shorter lifespan than you might expect – and they have to be maintained and updated.
It’s easy to spend anywhere from £2,000 to £15,000 on these beasts depending upon your needs. That, of course, excludes the costs of the software that they run and the IT engineers to support them.
Where cloud computing wins out hands down is that you don’t have an expensive capital outlay to pay. You simply don’t need the servers at all. Your practice management software provider shoulders these costs. That doesn’t mean that cloud hosting comes for free. However, practice management software suppliers benefit from economies of scale that are not available to you. The normal charging mechanism they use is an ongoing monthly fee based on the number of users of the software.
You gain by replacing expensive the initial purchase costs and ongoing maintenance, upgrading and IT staff costs with a monthly affordable charge. It’s worth taking a look at the long-term figures though. In most cases, there should be a significant saving over time using cloud. If there isn’t, you are being overcharged by the cloud software provider.
This may not seem obvious at first as it comes in several forms.
Office space comes at a premium these days. If you have your own server, you need to pay for somewhere to house it and power it. That usually involves a specialist comms. room or artificially ventilated environment.
With cloud, you win hands down. There is no need for all this infrastructure – the cloud software provider does it for you.
With your own server, you are pretty much tied to the office when you wish to use your practice management software. With cloud, you can access it from anywhere you have an internet connection. That means you can work at home, in court, at your client’s premises or even when you are on holiday.
All these benefits help you to save unnecessary costs, work more efficiently and provide better service to your clients.
Flexible working is tied into this. Yes, you can save time and money by working from anywhere, but there is another advantage that some legal practices have latched onto – “hot-desking”. If you and your team spend a large proportion of your time out of the office, you can make savings by not taking as much office space.
With your own server, the cost of initial purchase will not be the only one. Ongoing costs to update and upgrade software, combined with the realisation that your server hardware and software will eventually become obsolete, should feature large in your decision making.
Cloud computing provides an alternative to break this cycle of costs. The cloud service provider will continually update both hardware and software as a matter of course. Continued high performance and functionality is assured – at no additional cost to you.
Let’s bust the myth with this one. Just because you host your own servers and can see them in your air-conditioned comms. room does not make them more secure.
Think also about GDPR. Unless you are running the most up-to-date (and expensive) hardware, software and anti-virus protection mechanisms, a breach of client data could cost you thousands in fines.
If you decide to use the cloud, these considerations are all taken care of by your provider. Again, there is no additional cost to you.
That’s a brief run-down of some of the cost savings you can make by moving to the cloud. Properly handled, the move should not disrupt your day-to-day working – in fact, it should enhance it.
The real benefits come from how you use it to improve your clients’ experience of your service. You can be available for them outside office hours, you can work from court, you can access clients’ case files and documents on the go. What’s more, with the right practice management software, you can keep your clients up-to-date via a client portal or a mobile phone app.
The ultimate win is that you can position yourself one step ahead of your competitors.
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Our clients range from small start-up legal practices to multi-partner, multi-site firms.
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