Transitioning your Law Firm to the Cloud
The decision to move some of your solo or small firm’s software to the cloud isn’t a simple one. Even after you’ve analyzed the relevant privacy, security and ethical issues, there are a number of important factors to take into consideration before using cloud computing services in your firm.
The first step is to assess your current systems and determine which functions you’ll be replacing with cloud computing systems. If your firm has existing server-based software already in use, your implementation process will necessarily differ from that of a new firm with no systems in place.
For a new firm, it may just be a matter of simply choosing which cloud computing platforms to use, since you’ll be building the practice from scratch. However, if your firm has software systems already in place, you may decide to replace all server-based software programs with equivalent cloud computing platforms. Alternatively, you may prefer to continue using existing traditional software systems for certain functions, such as case management, and use cloud computing platforms for other non-essential processes like billing or data back-up.
Another issue to think about is your comfort level with storing confidential data in the cloud. If, after researching the risks and benefits, you still have reservations, then you may want to use cloud computing to store non-confidential legal forms or for billing, since you won’t need to upload confidential data into the cloud in order to use these types of products.
Also, give some thought to the compatibility of cloud computing programs with existing software or software you intend to use in the future. Make sure that the cloud computing application doesn’t duplicate functions of server-based software that you intend to keep using. Additionally, consider whether the cloud computing provider strives to make its product compatible with other cloud products or whether the provider is less willing to do so and seems to prefer a stand alone product. If you envision using other non-legal cloud-based products down the road, then you may prefer the former since you’ll have greater flexibility and ease of use.
If you expect to add new employees to your firm, consider how much it will cost more to add new user accounts. Also, ensure that the program allows for different permissions for different users so that you’ll be able to limit new users’ access to just the data that is necessary for them to perform their jobs.
Another issue to think about is mobile access. If you plan to use a smart phone or tablet computer to access your firm’s systems in the cloud, determine whether the cloud computing provider offers a mobile website or an app that is compatible with your smart phone.
And, last but not least, don’t forget about your operating system preferences, whether it’s Macs or PCs. In many cases, this may not be an issue, since most cloud computing services function independently of your operating system and permit access using any device capable of accessing the Internet. However, others require that you access your data via software that you download to your computer and often, the program will only work when using a specific browser or operating system such as Microsoft Explorer or Windows.
There are certainly many other factors to think about when implementing cloud computing products into your law firm. But at least now you have a starting point and can begin the process of transitioning your firm to the cloud, one step at a time.