Posted by Derek Fitzpatrick, General Manager – EMEA, at Legal Futures Associate Clio
The market for cloud-based practice management is growing rapidly and so is the number of companies providing this service. If you’ve already decided that the convenience and cost benefits of a cloud-based legal practice management solution are suited to your firm, how do you go about ensuring that you’re purchasing a truly cloud-based product? Here’s what you should look out for.
Cloud computing services can cost as much as 50% less than traditional software over a period of three years. If you start to notice hidden costs – such as installation, configuration, maintenance, and upgrades among your server-based or partially cloud-based software – it may be time to start asking questions.
For most cloud-based systems, firms are only required to pay a monthly subscription per user. There are no updates, software, or servers to purchase and migration, customer support, and training is included. In addition, there should be no fixed commitments or contracts, leaving users free to cancel their subscription at any time.
The biggest advantage of a truly cloud-based system is freedom. Users should have secure access to their files, cases, and matters from any device with an internet connection. Lawyers should have the freedom to work from any location – from home, from the office, from court, and even while travelling. When researching legal practice management providers, ensure that vendors provide, at a minimum, this freedom and capability.
Accessible through web browsers, cloud-based practice management platforms require no installation or maintenance of dedicated software and hardware. This allows law firms to remain agile, and seamlessly move their practice to the cloud, minimising the amount of time and money invested into deployment, maintenance, and training. Additional users can be added to the platform as required, meaning that as your firm expands, the software grows with it.
New features and product releases are administered centrally so there is no downtime or intervention required by the user. Ask about the installation turnaround time for your new cloud-based legal practice management software. If it’s anything longer than the couple of days, then it’s probably not an entirely cloud-based product.
If your legal practice management software provider has mentioned installing hardware in your building, they cannot claim to be a cloud-based solution. In addition to this, ensure that your firm meets all regulatory requirements by checking that all your data is hosted in European data centres. If you choose a provider that has servers outside the EU, you may not be compliant with data protection regulations and your data may be subject to the laws of the country it is being held in.
The cloud provides a higher standard of protection for confidential data than most law firms can provide on their own. Most data centres for cloud-based applications have passed a rigorous set of industry-standard auditing requirements ensuring the strictest levels of digital and physical access.
Ensure you ask your software provider what third-party data security companies they work with to ensure the safety of your information. Highly credible companies include McAfee, TRUSTe, and Norton.
The benefits of cloud-based practice management platforms are clear and relevant to law firms of all sizes. Firms can now enjoy an array of features that were formerly only accessible to their larger competitors as long as they ensure that the software they are purchasing is truly cloud-based.