Cloud Services for Law Firms

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Cloud software makes it easy for law firms to use various applications to run their practice. Studies have shown law firms that use multiple technologies generate, on average, 40% more than those who don’t. Cloud law firms have a clear business advantage.

What is Cloud Technology?

When we talk about cloud services it often seems foreign or obscure. Basically, they are computing platforms that are hosted by third-party suppliers connected over the internet. However, these services can be thought of in the following categories:

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IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)

Within this system, the consumer can specify what servers they require, complete with number of processor cores and required RAM memory for each, based on the requirements of the software to be installed. The amount of storage will vary based on application size, number of users, and storage growth potential. Disk storage is often high availability and redundant in configuration. This means that if some portion of the disk fails, there is enough storage to substitute in its place until the failed unit can be replaced. IaaS is a “leased” computer and network system based on size, robustness, and required uptime located in a location separate from the consumer. IaaS provides the most flexibility to a business in terms of scalability and use.

Benefits: flexibility, automation of processes, cost-reduction, control, and scalability

Disadvantage: legacy systems may require upgrades, additional training costs to manage with internal resources, and security mitigation.

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PaaS (Platform as a Service)

Similar to IaaS, these platforms are “leased” for a specified amount of time, with terms and conditions for use attached to a license agreement. These platforms often consist of a server, complete with appropriate operating system, network connectivity, and security supplied by the cloud vendor. Often, they are used for development among teams where consistency of the environment is critical.

Benefits: cost-reduction, scalability, migration, less coding, freedom to customize applications.

Disadvantage: data security, runtime issues, integrations, limitations on automation of processes.

SaaS (Software as a Service)

This term applies to services we often use for normal productivity, such as Google Apps or Microsoft 365, though not limited to these only. It basically implies that the user subscribes to these applications via some form of licensing agreement, either as an individual or as an employee of an enterprise.

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Benefits: cost-reduction, scalability, integration with other SaaS, upgrades by vendors, and ease-of-use.

Disadvantage: data security, compliance, limited customization, interoperability, less control, wasted resources, and shadow IT (employees adding software without knowledge of company).

Considerations

Since each service has its pros and cons, it’s important to know what is more valuable to your company – control, customization or convenience. Once you’ve decided, you can narrow down to three basic models, for simplicity:

Public Cloud. Enables users to access and share basic computing infrastructure, including hardware, storage, and networks. Each user’s or company’s access remains isolated from other tenants. Most organizations employ public cloud solutions based on availability, ease of use, and interoperability with prevalent business tools.

Private Cloud. Also known as enterprise clouds, this computing model is constructed and managed using an organization’s internal IT infrastructure and resources. Since the company is responsible for all maintenance, upgrades, equipment, and software, private clouds are usually cost-prohibitive to small- and mid-size businesses.

Hybrid Cloud. A pool of two or more virtual environments—public or private. These combined resources may be developed using third-party sourced hardware as well as company supplied equipment, support, and services.

Benefits to Legal

Mobile devices are becoming more the norm because they provide employees with greater portability and flexibility over the traditional workstation. With a web-enabled device and a secure connection, employees can perform nearly every task in the cloud that they could in their office. More companies realize the convenience and productivity benefits of using mobile-friendly cloud computing solutions to manage their data.

In his article, The Modern Legal Practice Needs the Cloud More Than Ever, Pete Watson wrote: “Today’s law firms must have a solid understanding of its cloud setup, why they are implementing it and how its data is being managed…. Whether your aim is simply to be paperless in your law firm (due to security and environmental factors) or unlock the full potential of your remote workforce, cloud technology helps you head in the right direction.”

Larry McKinley

Larry McKinley earned a BSEE degree from Texas Tech University, where he began his career in industrial automation and controls, working primarily with agricultural, manufacturing, and petrochemical customers. After industrial automation, Larry became a process control engineer, working in the Pulp & Paper industry. While in the industry, he worked as a Process Information Engineer, IT Project Manager, IT Business Relationship Manager, and Business Application Support Manager. Larry also earned certification as a Six Sigma Black Belt, working for several years in Manufacturing Optimization. Interests outside of work include music, cooking, gardening, and sports.

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