By now, you’ve heard much about firms making the move to “the cloud.” But what is it exactly and why is this a smart move for law firms?
What is the cloud?
The cloud allows you to store and access critical information on a network of servers hosted on the Internet rather than a local, physical server. Whether you realize it or not, you’re probably already using the cloud. Many popular platforms such as Google Drive, Office 365, Apple iCloud and Dropbox are cloud-based and do not require you to work with a computer’s hard drive to access and manage files.
According to the 2018 ABA TECHREPORT, lawyers are regularly using their mobile devices for work-related tasks outside of the office (i.e. courtroom, airport, hotel and in transit). The cloud has undoubtedly played a major role in this evolution, making it possible for attorneys to access important information no matter where they are.
In-house servers vs. the cloud
While both in-house servers and the cloud share the ability to store and access data, they differ in approach. In-house servers have become less popular due to their many drawbacks:
- Space and Staffing Considerations: In-house servers and backups require physical office space, which can create clutter in your law office. Finding the best location to store your server can be a challenge since you will need to find a space in the office that is clean, ventilated and secure. Your firm will need to hire a dedicated IT person or support team to consistently maintain the server and solve problems when they arise.
- Costly: Ongoing installation and updates to the hardware can quickly put a dent in your wallet. Licensing fees for the software are an additional purchase to keep in mind.
- Not-scalable: An in-house server may be an option for a small firm, but you should always be thinking of the potential for growth. When your team grows, so does your hardware. A bigger firm (and larger server) means more installations and upgrades to configure.
- Potential Data Risk: In times of disaster, such as a flood, in-house servers are susceptible to damage and can result in data loss. Physical backups that have been stored away also have the potential to be destroyed or stolen. In times of a hardware crash, your firm may be out of service for an extended period of time until your IT team can resolve the issue.
With cloud-computing on the rise, there’s no denying the advantages of the cloud:
- Accessibility: No matter where you or a member of your team is located, important files can be accessed from any location at any time. Whether you’re on a desktop, tablet or mobile phone, all of the information that is stored on the cloud can be attained when needed. With cloud-based applications such as a legal practice management platform, members of your firm can easily collaborate when not in the office. Documents, notes, tasks and other communications are recorded and immediately updated in the cloud so you’re always working with the most up-to-date files. You can’t do that with an in-house server!
- No Office Space Needed: Your firm won’t have to make room for a physical server, paper files and backups, creating less clutter in your office.
- Cost-effective: There’s no need to purchase servers, backups or installations with the cloud. Unlimited data storage in the cloud will save your firm money and can can reduce IT support costs. The cloud is a “pay-as-you-go” platform so your firm can choose to pay on a monthly or annual basis. Whichever plan you choose, you’re sure to receive the latest and greatest version. The cloud makes it easy to scale up or down if you hire more employees or decide to go out on your own.
- Data Security and Recovery: In case of an accident or disaster, the cloud will remain unharmed, unlike physical files that would be stored on an in-house server and can result in data loss. You won’t have to worry about viruses that come from downloading a new software onto your server. The cloud is made up of many local servers so if one goes down, the other connecting servers will maintain hosting for easy recovery. This will give you peace of mind knowing that all of your information is safely stored and unharmed. You can also set up automatic daily backups and scans for potential vulnerabilities that can be fixed upon notice.
It’s easy to see why law firms are making the move to the cloud. Will your firm be next?