Statistics show that 38% of law firms in the US use cloud-based services. 53% does not, while the rest isn’t sure which of the services they use are cloud-based. The cloud services that are being used not only include cloud-based law firm management software, but also other services, like using the cloud for backups, or to share information with customers, etc.
In this article, we will focus on the pros and cons of cloud based law firm management software.
Advantages of using public cloud services
These are the main advantages of moving your law firm to the cloud.
Maximize Internet Security: when you host your own servers, and provide Internet access to them, security is a constant concern. It’s not obvious to always have the latest patches, a perfectly configured firewall, etc. Because it’s part of their core business, external cloud service providers are experts in secure provision. More likely than not, your data will be safer in the cloud.
Reliable Physical Security: Cloud service providers use data centres where a lot of attention is paid to physical security of the infrastructure. Typically, advanced security measures, like using biometrics, are in place to enter the premises. The chances of losing data because your servers are (physically) stolen are virtually non-existent in the cloud.
Immediate Disaster Recovery: Cloud service providers have Disaster Recovery plans (and the necessary infrastructure) that can be implemented instantly, or on very short notice.
Predictable IT budgeting: when you use cloud-based services, your IT cost is far more predictable, as you typically pay a fixed subscription fee. Add to that, that in most cases, using cloud-based services is cheaper, because you need to invest far less in your hardware infrastructure!
Eliminating IT Distraction and Hassle: keeping your own IT infrastructure up and running can be time consuming. If you use cloud based services, that hassle largely becomes the concern of the service provider.
Inherent Remote Access: the cloud offers constant access, from anywhere, at any time.
Experienced Law Firm Cloud Services: most providers of cloud-based services for lawyers have been on the market for a long time, and have plenty of experience.
Innovation comes as standard with the public cloud: one of the challenges when managing your own IT infrastructure is knowing when to upgrade and when to implement new technologies. When using cloud-based services, you’re staying ahead of the curve, without having to worry whether the technology will cause any problems. Your provider will have tested them out in advance.
Flexibility provides a business advantage: the cloud can provide a law firm with extra flexibility which can be a business advantage.
A survey revealed the following reasons why law firms chose to move their business to the cloud:
- Easy browser access from anywhere, 68%.
- 24 x 7 availability, 67%.
- Low cost of entry and predictable monthly expense, 59%.
- Quick to get up and running, 49%.
- Robust data back-up and recovery, 47%.
- Eliminates IT & software management requirements, 40%.
- Better security than I can provide in-office, 32%.
But there are also some caveats that should be taken into account. When you are using cloud services, not only your IT infrastructure, but also all your data are in the hands of a third party. And you necessarily rely on Internet access to have access to your data. Law firm management software typically is mission critical for a law firm. If your access is interrupted, or if the critical systems that are in the cloud fail, this could cause serious problems, even put a law firm out of business. There also are concerns of privacy and lawyer-client confidentiality: does the staff of the service provider have access to your clients’ data? Security typically is better in the cloud, but a breach typically also has bigger consequences, and service providers for lawyers are preferred targets for hackers. Continuity also is a concern: what happens to your data if the service provider goes out of business, e.g.?
In his article on cloud computing for lawyers, David Canton listed the following issues to consider:
- how mission critical the system is
- what the consequences are of a short term and long term outage
- how confidential or personal the information is in the system
- can the information be encrypted in transit and at rest
- how robust the vendor’s continuity plan is
- the need for the business to have its own continuity plan – such as a local copy of the data
- how robust the vendor’s security is
- does the vendor have third party security validation to accepted standards
- does the vendor’s agreement have provisions that back these issues up with contractual terms and service levels with meaningful remedies
Because of these consideration, there are law firms who explicitly choose to not use the cloud. When questioned, these were the reasons they gave to stay away from cloud services:
- Confidentiality/security concerns, 63%.
- Concerns of having less control of your data because it’s hosted by the provider, not on your own server/computer, 54%.
- Unfamiliarity with the technology, 50%.
- Concerns of losing access to and ownership of your data, 39%.
- Cost/effort of switching from your current solution, 31%.
- Cost of services, 28%.
- Preference for owning software rather than paying a monthly subscription, 25%.
- Non-web-based software programs you use are sufficient for current needs, 24%.
- Lack of professional responsibility/ethics guidance, 24%.
- Uncertainty over longevity of vendor, 20%.
- lawfirmsuites.com/2016/07/reasons-law-firms-use-the-cloud/ (infographic)
- legal-workspace.com/7-advantages-cloud-law-firm/ (Same as above, but in text).