An increasing number of legal firms are looking to the cloud to deliver cost-efficiencies and flexibility, and many are becoming more confident with providers’ IT security and datacentre compliance capabilities. This shows a marked change in the industry as the cloud market matures and providers such as Microsoft Azure and AWS start to offer a secure, viable cloud option to law firms.
In our last blog  I discussed the misconceptions that surround Public Cloud and distinguished myth from reality. In this next post I’ll look at both the pros and cons of using the Public Cloud over Private Cloud.
Advantages of using Public Cloud:
A Highly Scalable Solution
Public Cloud gives your firm access to almost unlimited resources to enable your firm scale up or down as required. Although law firms do not tend to require the same level of flexibility as an ecommerce business for example, there are some workloads that lend themselves well to Public Cloud such as development or business intelligence management. The pay-as-you-go pricing model of Public Cloud makes this a cost effective option for firms looking to spin up servers on an ad hoc basis and gives IT teams more freedom. However, this should be carefully monitored and managed to ensure costs do not creep upwards.
Public Cloud networks are far more robust than they were previously, which is vital for any company, but particularly for law firms whose data security is of paramount importance. These large organisations have now built up years of experience and their environments are hardened to repeated hacking attempts. They also benefit from huge economies of scale, enabling them to invest in their platforms, and to employ technical specialists who are experts in their field. However, firms must remember that their environment is only as secure as they build it.
Disadvantages of using Public Cloud:
Perceptions of Security
The fact that Public Cloud is just that – a public option – means that the hardware resources are shared on a platform that’s open to anyone to use. As discussed above, advancements in network security have instilled more confidence for CTOs than in previous times, but this does not mean that security is no longer an issue.
No matter how well-managed and secure a law firm believes its IT infrastructure to be, if their clients’ perception is that there is a security risk, it could have a detrimental effect on the firm’s ability to win new business, and as the market gets ever-more competitive, firms cannot afford to take this risk. For law firms dealing with large financial institutions and clients whose data security policies stipulate exactly how and where data should be held, Public Cloud may not be a suitable choice.
Control & Customisation
Another potential disadvantage for Public Cloud is that it can lack customisation, or certainly the ability to customise the services to your own exact specification. Service level policies and compliances are enforced by the service provider so it’s important to ascertain what these are well in advance before choosing your provider.
You also need to be aware of how the cloud provider takes care of global updates. Microsoft Azure will regularly perform such updates to ensure the reliability, performance and security of host infrastructures is always at peak level for the virtual machines being used within these environments. Whilst this is great for keeping vital elements up-to-date, virtual machines might reboot without prior warning or initiation which is far from ideal. For firms hosting key applications such as their Case or Practice Management software, these non-optional updates could potentially cause major disruption to your firm.
Which option is best?
We have seen both the advantages and disadvantages of using Public Cloud within the legal sector, and for the most part, what the Public Cloud can’t offer your firm, the Private Cloud could. But a one-or-the-other approach won’t suit all firms so how can you overcome this? By investing in Hybrid Cloud as an alternative. This model of cloud computing enables you to cherry pick which elements of Public and Private Cloud you wish to use and combine the two. This is a strategy we will look into for our next blog in this series.
The most important aspect when building your strategy is to have the right IT partner working alongside your firm to ascertain your specific operational and technical requirements, in order to ensure your strategy is right from the start.