Richard Hugo-Hamman, CEO of LEAP software gives an overview of cloud technology, the impact it will have on your law firm, the benefits that you can achieve and things to consider when deciding which supplier to use.
What is the Cloud? Quite simply it is data that is stored in a different location from where it is used and is accessed over the Internet. Many of us use cloud technology every day and have done so for years without even knowing – Hotmail, Gmail, Dropbox, iCloud and Internet Banking are all commonly used cloud-based technologies.
- Lower infrastructure costs
With the Cloud, you can do away with the huge expense of managing your own server infrastructure, not only the upfront cost of purchase but ongoing maintenance expenses. Thousands of pounds spent on a server that is effectively a data repository can now be spent on other, more important things. With a cloud provider you pay as you use software, and no longer have to pay substantial upfront licensing costs.
The cloud can be accessed from anywhere. In a world where businesses run around the clock, accessibility is the new key to a work/life balance. Having 24/7 access to your data means you have more flexibility as to where and when you work. It enables you to work from home, fitting your work around your life rather than having to stay late in the office has got to be a good thing! The Cloud also lets you take advantage of otherwise downtime to work, for example if you are waiting around in court you can work as normal.
- Mobile workforce
Having a flexible, mobile workforce is becoming the norm. There is no need to lose good staff anymore due to reasons like travel. In a country where the wrong kind of leaves stop the commuter trains, you can now weather-proof your business. Flooding and snow no longer need to prevent your staff from coming to work.
- Start ups
The Cloud is making it easy for lawyers to set-up new practices, breaking free from the corporate shackles of a large practice. No longer is there a need to spend thousands on a server, buy expensive software licenses upfront and hire technical support. With a laptop and a cloud solution a lawyer can be up and running with minimal upfront costs. And with mobility comes the need not to have a fixed business office. You can work from anywhere and hire a serviced office as and when you need one.
- Backups and Recovery
Having your data backed-up is a crucial part of your business. The traditional cost of backing up data properly can be quite high and it also relies on someone carrying out proper procedures, changing and securely storing back-up tapes etc. When disaster strikes, you then have to hope that the back-up tape will restore your data properly. If your server becomes inoperable and you have to replace it, that will cost thousands and take days if not weeks. The cloud means that not only are your backups taken care of for you, but in a disaster, your data can be recovered instantly.
- Data location
Regulatory bodies for lawyers around the world generally have the same concern – where is your data hosted? It is important to ensure your cloud provider complies with the rules and regulations as set down by your local regulatory body. As a general rule of thumb, if your data is stored in compliance with US-EU and US-Swiss Safe Harbour Principles, it is safe.
- Reliance on Internet connection
Cloud products rely almost entirely on the Internet. Unfortunately some areas have either poor connection speeds or suffer from intermittent performance problems. Great cloud products accommodate a lack of a good Internet connection.
Avoiding the Pitfalls
- Research your Provider
Research your providers’ history. How long have they been in business? Are they a solid and secure business? Always ask where your data is kept. The location should always comply with your regulatory bodies requirements. Ask what security mechanisms are in place. Is the data in a secure facility? Is the data encrypted? Is there banking level security? The only acceptable answer to all of these questions is “yes”.
- Use a product with a Local Cache
Great cloud products will store data locally on your computer so that you can continue to work when you are offline, also known as a local cache.
This is a safeguard against Internet outages or poor connections. Your data will sync when you have a good connection, until then you can work as normal, with no need to wait for a connection.
The Cloud can give a firm a tremendous competitive advantage, with lawyers working more effectively, making you more money and using less administrative staff to run your business. Make more money with less people. That’s got be a good thing hasn’t it?