When Cloud Computing Backfires

Many law firms have already shifted to the Cloud, and many more are giving it careful consideration. Unfortunately, this transition can come with serious problems and buyer's remorse if the right solution isn't implemented.

Following are five pitfalls and common provider shortcomings that your law firm should carefully avoid when selecting a private cloud solution.

Performance Problems

A top reason law firms leave their current cloud service provider (CSP) is simply that their desktop and their applications run slowly. Unfortunately, many CSPs fail to provide adequate resources (computing power such as processing and RAM) because they are either trying to compete on price or are unfamiliar with the software the law firm uses and failed to allocate resources appropriately.

How to Protect Yourself: Make sure your CSP is transparent in how much computing resources they allocate and that they understand the exact requirements of your legal software.

Downtime and Connectivity Issues

If your private cloud is down, your firm is down. Downtime can be devastating to your law firm, especially when cases and clients hang in the balance. Many CSPs are small and may not have the resources to build a reliable cloud infrastructure. 

Worse yet, some CSPs, in an attempt to achieve "rock-bottom pricing", cut corners with their cloud infrastructure, which translates to a higher likelihood of downtime for your firm. 

How to Protect Yourself: Make sure you are evaluating a reputable provider, one that has many clients and many years of cloud hosting experience. We all like to root for the little guy, but when it comes to your firm's livelihood, go with a tried and true provider.

Poor Support

A key reason to move to a private cloud is to centralize accountability. When a cloud provider hosts and supports all of your software documents and email, managing your firm’s technology should get a lot simpler. A lot of responsibility lies with your CSP to properly support your staff, your software, and your systems. 

Unfortunately, many CSPs deliver lackluster support. Their service level agreement (SLA), aka the "rules of engagement" with respect to supporting your firm is full of exceptions, limitations, and extra fees for anything outside the narrow scope of their cloud environment.

How to Protect Yourself: Make certain you fully understand the CSP's support obligations. Will they draw a hard line with respect to supporting their cloud environment versus your local network? Will they support your local computers and devices? Will they support the software you host in their cloud? Since the goal in moving to a private cloud is to eliminate servers and outside IT support, make certain that your new CSP will support your entire law firm.

Printing and Scanning Difficulties

Printing and scanning is part of running a law firm. However, some CSPs don’t understand the importance of these peripherals and take a lackadaisical or reactive approach to integrating and supporting your firm’s printers and scanners. At worst, this can lead to a complete lack of printing or scanning functionality. At best, printers and scanners may simply not work the way they did prior to migration to the Cloud.

How to Protect Yourself: Understand how your CSP will integrate your printers and scanners with your new private cloud. Will scan-to-folder continue to work? Will your volume of printing/scanning put stress on the private cloud system? Make certain your CSP understands the unique printing and scanning needs of your law office.

Lack of Legal Technology Expertise

There are plenty of capable CSPs out there. Most offer general cloud services to many businesses and industries. While these "cloud generalists" may be technically proficient, they typically do not have the experience to understand lawyers’ ethical obligations and compliance requirements, and they likely will not have deep experience in legal software used by law firms.

This often translates to little or no support for your legal software (the reason you have a private cloud in the first place!) and a lot of finger-pointing between your CSP and your software publisher.

How to Protect Yourself: When searching for the right CSP, you should narrow your list to providers that exclusively service the legal industry. Beware of clever veneers. Some generalist CSPs may claim to specialize in legal and may have a few Web pages devoted to the legal industry. But look closer and you may find that their expertise in legal technology is lacking any depth.

The Verdict

Cloud computing in general, and a private cloud specifically, offers many benefits to a law firm. There are, however, pitfalls if the law firm is not careful in their search and selection. We recommend that law firms perform careful due diligence when searching for and evaluating a provider.


Uptime Legal Systems

Uptime Legal Systems is a leading provider of cloud services to the legal industry. Uptime provides a complete Law Office in the Cloud™ to hundreds of law firms around the world. Services include hosted practice management, cloud-based document & email management, legal-grade email, cloud-based phone service and managed IT for law firms. Click here for more information.

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