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FALL 2014 EDITION

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Making it Legal: A Law Firm's Guide to Transitioning to the Cloud

You can’t start a conversation today without tripping over the latest claims, or complaints, about “cloud computing.” For legal firms, the technical and accounting issues that surround a move to the cloud are further complicated by the strict need to maintain control over sensitive information. Issues like jurisdiction, ownership, and where the information resides become critical factors that must be determined before any move is even contemplated.

This guide will provide you with an examination of why you may want to consider a move to the cloud and also what you need to know to avoid unnecessary expenses, frustrations, and lost productivity during a transition to the cloud.

The Benefits of the Cloud:

  1. Achieve economies of scale: One of the inescapable outcomes of cloud computing is natural economies of scale. You get more power, greater redundancy and fault protection, and higher levels of security, all while reducing costs.
  2. Reduce spending on technology infrastructure: One benefit of the cloud’s pay-as-you-go system is the absence of capital expenditure, while still gaining the benefits of a massive infrastructure that allows you to quickly scale to greater computing power, without investing in additional equipment.
  3. Improve accessibility and collaboration: Provided you have the security credentials, the cloud enables you to work from anywhere you have Internet access. This means greater collaboration that in real-time, leading to faster results and less time wasted. Frost & Sullivan’s research has shown that firms investing in collaborative technology achieved nearly a 400% return on investment.
  4. Monitor your team’s progress: When time is money and your clients expect results, you need to know exactly where the information is located. Your team needs to collaborate without the risk of effort redundancy or time delays. The cloud keeps everyone current on what is needed, what is complete, and what needs work. It lets a smaller firm react faster and successfully compete with larger firms.
  5. Reduce your team’s learning curve: No one enjoys training, and with the cloud, you can seamlessly move your applications straight across, with almost no downtime and relearning required.
  6. Access alternatives to licensing software: Sometimes it doesn’t seem to pay to renew software licenses. The cloud can give you access to hosted applications that are just as robust and functional as the boxed packages paid for year after year. Gain access to more secure, higher-functioning applications that the cloud brings, while minimizing your ongoing cost of use.
  7. Disaster planning: Cloud-based services eliminate the need for complicated and technology-rich recovery plans. Because of their large infrastructures, the cloud can help a firm develop a more robust and redundant recovery plan than most firms could afford otherwise. This is all achieved without your firm making huge capital investments on mirror installations of redundant servers.
  8. Software maintenance: Cloud computing suppliers include server maintenance as part of their packages. This means that all security updates, software updates, and other network maintenance is handled on a scale that would otherwise be extremely costly.
  9. Security: It is estimated that every year 800,000 laptops are misplaced in airports, leaving the data on them open to hackers and other prying eyes. However, with a cloud solution, none of the critical or sensitive data is stored locally. This allow you to harness the full power of a well-funded, staffed IT security team for every piece of data in your firm, no matter what machine is being used to access it.
  10. Working Green: Cloud computing helps your firm be greener and reduce its carbon footprint. Energy consumption is reduced due to cloud scaling that creates equipment efficiencies and saves between 30 and 90% of energy, depending on the size of the firm. Identifying your firm with green operating practices can attract clients as well as public acknowledgement; in addition to making a positive change for the environment.

Common Concerns

Storing critical data with a third-party can create professional anxiety along with ethical, legal, and business questions. Many people question whether or not they trust the cloud’s security, so it is important to ask yourself, “Who has more resources to devote to security, monitoring data access, and staying ahead of updates, changes, and new security challenges: an in-house IT professional or an entire department of IT security professionals, running 24/7? The cloud holds the advantage.

But, it doesn’t end there. Both management and individual employees need to be part of the security solution. However, there is often a disconnect like the one illustrated in a recent survey of American Lawyers:

"According to The American Lawyer Legal Survey, some 43% of law firms use tablets. Not surprisingly, 92% of these tablets are not supported by the firm itself but are wholly managed by firm employees."

Imagine the potential liability of tablets, coupled with the reported 800,000+ notebooks lost in airports every year. With cloud computing, all critical information and access systems are secure, without anything stored locally. Cloud storage adds a constant layer of access security and network security to everything you put in it.

Key Considerations

Here are some of the ways you can mitigate your risk and control the impact of your firm’s learning curve when transitioning to the cloud:

  1. Thoroughly investigate the Service Level Agreement (SLA) to ensure that:

    • You know which jurisdiction(s) your date will be stored in.
    • Ownership of your client data is clearly assured.
    • You have a contractual provision that will advise your firm in advance of any proposed closure or of any creditor action that has commenced against your cloud provider.
    • There is a contractual level of redundancy for protection of your sensitive data against massive failure at any one data center.
    • A known level of security and maintenance is guaranteed to be part of your package’s costs, so that your up-time and data integrity is assured.
    • If you transition to another cloud provider, there are provisions in place to ensure that your data will be completely wiped from the system to prevent unauthorized access.
  2. Ask important questions to ensure the cloud provider can successfully maintain data for a firm such as yours.

    • Does the provider have experience with legal firms of similar size?
    • Who is responsible for transition your data into the cloud?
    • What is the experience level of managing critical applications, such as ProLaw? Is the staff experienced with your software applications?

Ideally, you want a provider who has a team that specializes in only your industry, and that has also assisted hundreds of firms just like yours. These providers will understand the software your staff uses and also know how to migrate it to the cloud without unnecessary downtime and learning curves on both sides. It is also important to look for a provider that is an expert in managing the software your firm uses.

Making the Move

Once you’ve done your homework and selected a stable cloud provider who knows your business, software, and challenges, you should be able to migrate to the cloud almost seamlessly, and begin enjoying higher productivity, lower costs, and better overall performance.


LevelCloud

LevelCloud is a cloud hosting provider for ProLaw. It can host a firm’s entire network, including all applications, and deliver it securely and cost-effectively to any mobile device. The company also provides value added services such as managed IT services, email archiving, spam filtering, exchange hosting, and more, offering a turn-key cloud solution at a fixed monthly cost. Visit LevelCloud for more information.

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