Advantages of Cloud Computing Hosted Services for Law Firms

cloud computing for law firmsEveryone is talking about the “cloud” these days. Most of the larger court reporting agencies have either already made the switch or are in the processing making the switch to the cloud for many of our in-house processes. Repository access for obtaining your copy transcripts and exhibits are completely cloud-based now so you have 24/7 access.  Scheduling is also available 24/7 through www.SKReporting.com thanks to the cloud-based capabilities we’ve acquired.  As we did our research and analyzed some of the reasons for going to the cloud, I realized it might save some time for others if I shared that information so you, too, can make a determination if cloud-based, hosted services is right for your firm, whether you’re considering switching at a court reporting firm or at a law firm.  As always, though, security is a major concern and consideration when choosing a provider.

Sometimes the phrase “cloud computing” refers to having your firm’s server off site and you can access it anywhere you have an internet connection.  Sometimes we use cloud computing to mean any software we can access from the internet, even if it’s not on our server, such as GoToMeeting or DropBox.

The type of cloud computing we want to talk about is the former, also referred to as hosted services or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).  With hosted services, you remove the server from your office, and the host will now house it and run things for you.  The host provider will be responsible for the equipment used to support operations, including storage, hardware, servers and networking components. The service provider owns the equipment and is responsible for housing, running and maintaining it. The client typically pays on a per-user basis.

Why did we decide to move to hosted services?  There are some definite advantages to switching from an on-site server to a hosted service system.

Benefits of Cloud Computing Hosted Services for Law Firms to Consider:

Disaster Recovery

If you have a fire in your office, your on-site server runs the risk of being destroyed.  With hosted services, your server will be at another location.  Most hosted service companies also create regular backups that are maintained at a second or third location.  When you’re on the cloud, if your building catches fire and is destroyed, your network is still running, fully functional and accessible from any computer. Even if the server housed at your hosted service provider is destroyed, the backup can be installed and have you up and running quickly without losing data.  I can’t imagine any attorney out there who would be happy if we said, Oh, sorry, we had a fire in our office and none of your files are accessible any longer.

Avoid Service Problems

With hosted services, when you have a problem with the network, your host will be able to immediately access the system and begin troubleshooting the problem.  If you currently call your tech to come on site when you run into problems, you’ll no longer have to call and incur on-site visit service fees.  Or if you currently have a staff person who handles your technology or are thinking of adding one, the cloud allows you to avoid the overhead of keeping an on-site technology person on staff.

When new software needs to be installed, it can be done by the host at their location. You will no longer have to worry about whether the server/software is reaching the end of its life. Since your network is running on your host’s system, they are responsible for keeping the hardware up to date.

Budgeting

Once you have transitioned to hosted services, you’ll be able to easily anticipate the amount you need to budget for the system.  You’ll avoid the emergency situation of having to quickly buy a new server and have it installed, hoping you can recover all of your data.  Again, the host is responsible for keeping the hardware up-to-date for you. Your monthly technology bill will be much more predictable since most hosted services charge per user.

Flexibility

With hosted services, you’ll be accessing your network remotely.  The server sits at the host, and everyone in the office accesses it online.  This means that you can access your network from any computer with an internet connection and get the exact same user experience as you do while in the office.  With flexibility of location, you’ll be able to take advantage of down time when you’re away from the office.  If you would like to work from home over a weekend, this becomes much easier to do with hosted services. (Not that we’re advocating you working from home on a weekend!!)

Scalability

Your hosted service provider offers these services to a wide range of clients.  If you happen to run into space limitations and need to expand your network, your host will be able to handle that request to quickly increase your system’s capacity.

Questions to Ask

If you’re considering moving to hosted services, here are some questions we found helpful in our interview process for a provider:

  • How much will this cost? Know that installation and the cost of transitioning your system to the hosted services will vary.  You’ll need to invest in this initial transition in order to reap the benefits of hosted services.
  • How long will it take to switch? Transitioning can take some time and will involve coordination on your part to ensure all of your programs transition properly to the new system.  Consider appointing one person in your office to act as project manager to handle all of the details during the transition to streamline the process.
  • Will the system be faster or slower than the one you currently use? Users will not be pleased if the system is slower than the one which they are currently using. Be sure to ask about speed. Ask to see a demonstration of this system so you can assess speed for yourself.
  • How secure is the system? As a law firm, your clients depend on you to ensure that their data is safe.  Ask what security measures are in place to keep all of your data secure and unreachable.  This was a key issue for us because we are handling your clients’ information within deposition transcripts. We needed our provider to ensure HIPAA-quality standards at all times with our transcripts and exhibits.

Keeping up with the speed of technology can be a difficult task for any business, but is imperative for court reporting firms and law firms so we can stay competitive in your market with state-of-the-art services for clients.  If you’re currently housing your server in your office, it’s probably worth your time to start at least familiarizing yourself with what’s available in hosted services so you’ll have the information you need to make good decisions affecting the technology within your law firm.

 

If you found this article interesting, you may also like “4 Easy Ways Attorneys Can Secure Ipad Data.”

Image Credit: Hagengraf