Traveling into the Cloud

Traveling into the Cloud

My law firm has been considering its technological future, and doing so has provided me with a deeper glimpse into the many considerations a law firm should examine before choosing any one particular path. If you’re still on the fence about jumping into the cloud, here are a few more thoughts on things to consider.

First and foremost, there are a large number of people, law firms and corporations that are still using Microsoft XP. This operating system is no longer supported by Microsoft and will no longer be updated, so it is vulnerable to attack. Within a short period of time, anyone using Microsoft XP will have to upgrade their operating system. This could be an expensive and, possibly, time-consuming process.

The options are few. Firms can either upgrade their operating system to a new version of Microsoft but leave everything else unchanged. Or, they can make the leap into the cloud, changing or upgrading their operating system, but also moving applications to a secure, off-site cloud provider.

Maintaining hardware on-site has huge replacement costs every four to five years. This is entirely avoidable by moving to the cloud. Workstations can be turned into simple portals, no upgrade necessary and all computing is done in the cloud. You don’t need to upgrade the operating system, or anything else. Turning a computer into this type of portal also greatly extends the number of years you can use the computer. On top of all of this, when it does come time to replace the computer, you can simply by a cloud computing workstation for your employees, much less expensive than a traditional computer.

In moving the computing services off-site, there are a number of other advantages. You don’t have to worry anymore about securing your servers, or about what happens if someone breaks in and steals something, or even about your building burning down or flooding, destroying client files and documents in the process. The facilities housing the cloud computing servers and backup are more secure than a law office ever could be.

The other side of this particular coin, of course, is that you relinquish control of backup and security to another firm, where you can’t see what’s being done with your law firm’s data. For lawyers who like control, this proposition can be difficult to accept.

Moving into the cloud does require some upfront costs and, currently, an increase in monthly costs. But given the hundreds of thousands of dollars a small firm (millions for a large firm) would be spending every few years to appropriately upgrade computer systems, I think this is well worth it. Cloud computing requires Internet capability of 75-100 mbps for a small office, which will mean computing will speed up immensely. Cloud computing also may require a fallback Internet Service Provider, so that if one service goes offline, for whatever reason, your computing automatically and seamlessly switches to the fallback service provider and you can continue working. (Be sure to check with your landlord that they allow more than one service provider. If not, try to persuade your landlord to accept another service provider in the building.)

If the idea of moving all of your applications and data to a provider off-site is unsettling, there are firms who will build your firm its own cloud. With this option, you can maintain your servers in the office, and still have cloud computing at your fingertips. But, the costs for keeping all of this equipment serviced, upgraded and working correctly would still fall to you, as opposed to being handled entirely by the cloud service provider.

With a little bit more insight into this process, I can even more strongly suggest that law firms consider moving their computing operations to an off-site cloud service provider. There are many firms out there with a variety of options. It’s worth it, at the very least, to solicit a number of proposals and understand the options for your firm. I’ll be blogging here with any further cloud computing insights as we make this change in our law firm life.

Featured image: “Cloud Computing Concept. The Future – Everything from Socket” from Shutterstock.

About Victoria Santoro

Victoria Santoro
Victoria Santoro is an attorney at Meehan, Boyle, Black & Bogdanow, P.C. in Boston, Massachusetts. Victoria litigates cases on behalf of injured people, handling a variety of different types of cases including wrongful death, general liability and medical malpractice. Extremely active in the legal community, Victoria serves on the Board of Directors of the Young Lawyers Division, and on various committees at the Massachusetts Bar Association. She’s also a member of the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys and the Women’s Bar Association. Victoria, a graduate of Wesleyan University and Boston College Law School, was voted a Super Lawyers Rising Star in her first year of eligibility. An avid writer, Victoria contributes to several blogs, including her own website, The Limber Lawyer, where she frequently tackles work-life balance issues. You can reach Victoria at vsantoro@meehanboyle.com. You can follow The Limber Lawyer on Twitter here.
  • JohnM66

    I recently sent an email to one of the Technology in the Law experts I found online, pointing out a serious gap in the options she discussed and presented to her students as an adjunct professor. I was quite surprised to see that she had completely left out what I believe is the most well integrated cloud solution for any small business, but especially for law firms, Microsoft’s Office 365. Now I am without a doubt a fan of the Microsoft platform, but having analyzed numerous disjointed solutions, none come close to what Office 365 brings to the practice, and the price continues to become more and more appealing.

    Office 365 provides:

    A fully integrated solution that includes a single experience across:
    – Document management
    – IM, presence and conferencing
    – Email
    – Separate locations for personal vs. professional documents
    – Multiple devices, to include iPads, ChromeBooks, iPhones, Android phones
    – Multiple browsers (IE, Chrome, Firefox, et al)
    – Maintains all data within region (i.e. within the US)
    – Geographically distributed datacenters to insure data is protected against catastrophic events
    – Industry leading security model that has multiple governmental and international certifications
    – Provides financially-backed guarantees of 99.9% uptime
    – Real Time collaboration Leveraging the IM & conferencing capabilities including video
    – Real-time Co-Authoring and document collaboration
    – A SINGLE, simple and affordable licensing model that covers the entire suite of products
    – User and Role-based security that can be applied at the document, folder or library level to maintain appropriate separation and “Chinese firewall” for sensitive documents and cases
    – Fully integrated eDiscovery and eHold capabilities *built into* the product
    – Familiar MS Office applications, both web-based and locally installed
    – Each user can install the local versions on up to 5 PCs / Macs
    – Each user can install an additional 5 copies on iPads/Tablets
    – Built in Data Protection capabilities that allow you to establish rules to avoid the accidental release or distribution of sensitive PII or other confidential information
    – Email archiving
    – Yammer corporate social networking for larger firms to provide “social” discussions of legal (or any other) topic – Groups can be “restricted” to keep sensitive topics constricted to specific individuals – Also allows for social, non-business related discussions
    – Powerful Business Analytics
    – Public-facing website (reduce cost and complexity of yet another licensing relationship)
    The list goes on. What I also love about O365 is that the cost structures are very reasonable and are a predictable operational cost without the need to incur a large, up-front capital expense on hardware, software and labor in setup.
    I realize this seems like a sales pitch, but I’ve just been very surprised to see this very powerful solution not discussed a lot in our legal circles. It’s definitely worth a look, and there are a number of integrated practice management tools available that are integrated into Office 365 as well for case and time management.
    It’s definitely the way we’re going into the cloud.

  • http://www.safelyfiled.com Terri Caldwell

    Fear of the unknown. Yes, there are huge headlines about
    security breaches all the time which drives that fear even deeper. But
    just like the ratio of plane crashes to auto crashes, more fear flying
    even though the likelihood of a plane crash is much much lower. That’s
    why we at SafelyFiled.com work on educating people so they can make
    informed decisions regarding cloud options. Our service is more secure
    than most because of our encryption and dual authentication (ability to
    require an Access code in addition to login and password) yet is
    extremely affordable. We have a patent pending because we have a way to
    record paper as well as digital documents and an audit trail built in.
    We’re still a little ahead of the curve as many are hesitant to move to
    this service but it is coming and very soon.