All businesses from major enterprises down to mom and pop shops are showing the tech forecast to be cloudy. The major cloud infrastructure vendors are seeing high double-digit growth each year, and public cloud service offerings as a whole are expected to net more than $200 billion in 2019, according to Gartner.
While other businesses are moving quickly to the cloud, the legal realm is dragging, no surprise there! Are firms actually moving to the cloud? YES, just much slower than other industries. In a recent survey only 55% of firms are using some sort of cloud software including SaaS (Software as a Service). Is it time for your firm to move to the cloud? Let's find out!
The first and biggest concern most law firms have is related to security. Is my client's data safe? Would our important information be as safe in a cloud environment as an on-premise server protected by firewalls? Many state bar associations as well as the ABA have answered those questions, and deemed cloud solutions ethical in the realm of lawyers. With that hurdle cleared there is one other major change to law firms with cloud offerings: how firms pay. Monthly subscriptions have now become the "norm" and SaaS (Software as a Service) was born. In this offering you pay month to month and it allows your firm to leave the agreement at any time. This truly provides firms much more flexibility in the software they want to use. One of the main benefits of SaaS is you never have to worry about the costly upgrades to the software or the overhead IT costs to maintain servers.
Before you move any of your own infrastructure or data, it’s important to answer some fundamental questions!
1. How cloud based is your firm already?
Before any major technological shift begins, you have to start with thorough assessment of your firm's infrastructure. What are your firm's critical applications? Where are they running? Are they stored in an on-premises data center or in the cloud?
Once you do that assessment, you may well find that many parts of your firm are already operating in the cloud. If any of your employees use Gmail, social media for marketing, or a SaaS solution, you’re already at least partially cloud-based. That assessment may also reveal that firm employees are spinning up cloud-based solutions for themselves, such as those for collaboration technology or file storage.
2. How much tech expertise do you have in house?
Once you know what you have and where it is, the question then becomes what infrastructure and services you should migrate to the cloud and what needs to stay on-prem.
We see many more small firms finding it easier and much more cost-effective to let cloud providers take care of maintaining, upgrading, and patching servers and go move everything to the cloud. Most smaller firms have little to no IT staff and leaving it to tech specialists at leading vendors who provide SaaS applications is a no-brainer!
Sometimes moving to the cloud 100% is not possible, especially for larger firms. Organizations that have recently made large capital investments in technology on-premise will not be ready to waste that money spent. They also have many more IT resources in house to help support the software. Decisions to migrate to the cloud are typically made when legacy infrastructure is nearing its end of life.
It's not surprising the findings from a recent ABA survey: solo practitioners and small firms lead the way in cloud use, approaching 60%. Practices with 500 attorneys or more reported cloud use of only around 36%.
3. How much can you afford to invest?
How your firm handles your finances should be another key driver in your cloud migration strategy. There are much lower up-front costs with cloud options as you pay for the services as you need them. Cloud options also removes the need to anticipate future growth and avoids over provisioning, as cloud infrastructure can be scaled up or down as needed.
When you move from an on-prem data center to the cloud, you are also shifting a big chunk of your IT spend from capital to operating expenditures. The lower up-front investment for cloud solutions can prove an advantage for firms that may lack the resources or the desire to invest in infrastructure.
For most firms, it’s no longer a question of whether or not to move to the cloud, but of how many of their systems will make the migration. We tend to see the larger the firm, the more complex the decision will be. We have seen many midsize or large firms may end up adopting a hybrid approach, using some cloud services while maintaining other items on-premise.
By moving all or some of their infrastructure to the cloud, law firms can avoid costly capital expenditures, gain faster access to technology resources and have greater flexibility to respond to changing technology needs. That’s a winning argument! It’s time for law firms to start thinking about a move to the cloud as another path to increased efficiency, which translates to increased profitability!
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