These days, the cloud is everywhere. People are using it in their personal lives for everything from storing photos to messaging family and streaming movies. In a legal environment, attorneys are becoming more and more aware of the benefits of the cloud. If they aren’t embracing it yet, many are intrigued by the possibilities.
The opportunities presented by the cloud are considerable. As attorneys know, the cloud can save their firms money and provide instant access to information. But what else can the cloud do? Are there other unexpected ways the cloud can support your law firm? Yes!
Here are five unexpected ways that law firms can benefit from the cloud.
To protect clients and their confidential data, security is always top of mind for attorneys. It has, in fact, become even more important with the recent surge in data breaches hitting law firms, enterprises and individuals.
Consider the dilemma of a lawyer in Oklahoma whose files were held hostage by a third-party due to an encrypto virus. The “ransomware” encrypted all of the lawyer’s data and froze his computer until the lawyer paid a specified amount. The lawyer had installed multiple layers of protection to minimize the chances of such a scenario occurring. However, he had few options but to pay the ransom to get his files back. And, according to the article, this is the second time it had happened to him.
While the situation with ransomware may seem unique, it probably occurs more often than people realize. To avoid adverse publicity and embarrassment, few law firms are willing to admit that they have lost control of their files.
Even law firms with large IT budgets and those that are very tech-savvy struggle with security. For smaller firms with fewer resources, staying on top of security from a technology point of view is even more challenging. Many attorneys worry that the cloud is riskier than storing files on a server on-site. In reality, the opposite is true.
Most cloud providers offer much more robust security than small- to medium-sized law firms typically have in place. With this in mind, law firms can benefit from a cloud provider’s stringent security controls and parameters without having to buy, install and manage its infrastructure.
Cloud protections commonly include:
- Automatic updates that address potential vulnerabilities
- Encryption of data in transit and at rest
- Two-factor authentication
- Intrusion detection and prevention systems monitored by cloud personnel
- Hardware that can only be accessed by authorized personnel and is guarded and locked through multi-factor identification and/or video
- Dedicated cloud personnel to keep everything updated and monitored
In many industries, work is no longer confined to the office. It occurs in cars, at homes, and even at kids’ soccer practices. Most organizations have recognized that requiring employees to be in the office in order to access work-related information and programs doesn’t align with today’s work habits.
Yet many firms keep a tight leash between legal professionals and the office, based on the limits of their in-house or on-site technologies. Remarkably, a large number of law firms have not introduced mobile capabilities because of a lack of technology to support it or the money to make it happen.
However, cloud-based providers offer the opportunity to access data from any authorized device. This means attorneys only need a device (laptop, mobile phone, tablet, etc.) and an Internet connection to have work at their fingertips.
Cloud-based providers can also play a vital role when it comes to disaster recovery. They ensure that data isn’t stored in the office, but rather in a cloud provider’s server or servers. Consider the possibility that a disaster destroys the firm’s office—either through a natural disaster such as a tornado, or through an accident like a fire or bursting pipes. The law firm needs to consider how that would impact its business. Are the firm’s files and data still accessible via mobile connections if the office is destroyed? Chances are if you have an on-site server, your information could be lost or inaccessible—which means attorneys and clients suffer the consequences.
Anyone who has lost data due to a disaster can share how important it is to be able to access information from anywhere, rather than lose valuable billable hours while the office is shut down or the IT department is scrambling to recover or recreate documents, databases, and files.
Most cloud-based providers build in redundancies by having information stored in multiple data centers, which are typically in separate states. That means if a disaster decimates one location, files and information will be safely and securely hosted in another location. In order to be back in business immediately following a disaster, attorneys only need a computer with an Internet connection to access their data in the cloud.
Immediate Tech Support
When IT issues arise, no one wants to face the dreaded “on hold” message played by the helpline. This is especially true if the IT problem is so significant it is preventing lawyers from assisting clients.
Knowledgeable, reputable cloud providers will have virtual and physical access to the entire infrastructure that supports the firm. As a result, attorneys won’t have to wait for a technician to be dispatched or for replacement hardware to be ordered. Attorneys can also benefit from the fact that cloud providers are usually specially trained and certified on the applications the firm is utilizing, which increases the quality of support attorneys and staff receive.
More Predictable Budgets
When it comes to the law, attorneys hate surprises. This is also true when surprises impact the bottom line. Law firms can avoid the roller coaster of unpredictable support costs and hardware purchases by working with a cloud provider that charges a predetermined fee. Since most cloud solutions are billed on a monthly basis, law firms also benefit from not needing to depreciate large hardware purchases over a multi-year period.
Allowing IT Experts, Not Lawyers, to Handle IT
Most attorneys aren’t IT experts. Even those who are interested in technology would rather spend their time practicing law than troubleshooting hardware and software problems. IT can quickly become a distraction from the firm’s main focus—especially when law firms implement and use on-site solutions. With on-site solutions, someone from the firm must manage an IT vendor or hire someone to support the firm’s needs on a full-time basis. On-site solutions also require the firm to carve out dedicated space for servers, cooling systems, battery backup, and other hardware. The firm also must purchase hardware and deal with failures and glitches as well as take responsibility for software patches, upgrades, and related costs.
This is another area where the cloud can provide advantages. By identifying and engaging with the right partners, firms can work with cloud providers that will handle the day-to-day IT necessities, so that attorneys and staff simply boot up, log in, and get to work.
The cloud can offer many benefits for law firms, including ones that might come as a surprise to attorneys. By doing their research and finding trustworthy, experienced cloud providers, law firms can free up time and resources, save money, and give themselves and their clients peace of mind knowing that their data is safe, secure, and accessible.
About the Author
Joe Kelly, founder and CEO of Legal Workspace, launched his company after seeing the potential for the cloud in law firm operations. He is also the founder of Business Network Consulting, Ltd., which implements and supports IT solutions for mid-market companies.
(Feature Image Credit: ShutterStock)