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.

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