Moving your IT into the Cloud is a sensible way to go if firms want to work faster and smarter, but it needs to be done carefully. Chris Cann outlines his experience of doing it at Shropshire firm Martin-Kaye
Computing “in the Cloud” is a new way of expressing what is now a fairly well established way of delivering applications to the desktop. At Martin-Kaye we adopted this way of working over 10 years ago (although it was called Application Service Provision then). We knew that if we were to be competitive, we needed to be able to work faster and smarter than others in the market place and that IT was going to play a big part in that.
A decade later, we continue to believe that outsourcing is the best way of implementing a resilient and robust IT infrastructure; it has enabled us to reduce cost, improve efficiency and increase productivity in the highly competitive world of bulk legal service provision.
Much of that success is down to the relationship we’ve developed with our managed service provider, e-know.net. A move into the Cloud, if not quite a leap of faith, is still a big step. Like us back in 2000, you may have a number of reservations and doubts about “losing control” of your IT infrastructure and relying on a trinity of technology, people and process that sits outside of your organisation.
Those concerns are understandable, but after 10 years of enjoying the benefits, I can assure anyone seriously looking at this method of service delivery that you will not regret the decision to go ahead – as long as you find the right IT provider.
The trick is to find a partner that suits (in terms of quality, ability, size, pricing and chemistry) and to avoid the “Cloudboys” out there who have jumped on the bandwagon hoping for a quick profit.
The joy of six
Here are six key risk areas you need to examine when you consider outsourcing:
- Is the company sound? Check the accounts closely, make sure that hosting is a core part of what they do, how long they have been in business, and take up references. Certainly spend quite a bit of time visiting and talking to other users.
- Data security – how frequently is your data going to be backed up and how long will it be kept for? What anti-virus and anti-spam protection are they offering? If data is to be transported off-site, what encryption and security methods are to be used? (Zurich was fined a lot of money recently when its outsourcing company lost a backup tape.)
- Infrastructure. This is a very complex and technical area but you need to be looking at Tier 2 or Tier 3 data centres, and a specification that is geared to ensuring your managed service is delivered quickly, reliably, securely and with 99% uptime. Visit and compare the competing data centre environments, see for yourself the level of redundant power and communications provision, the security, the monitoring, the failover options, et al. While you’ll probably want a techie along to make an informed operational assessment, you should also be able to get a feel for the quality of the facility and the attitudes of those running it.
- Customer support. Is the support 24x7x52? Can calls be logged by telephone, e-mail and web? Is there a ticketing system? What is the experience of other users?
- Solution functionality. Does a switch to the Cloud still give you what you need? Multi-level functionality for different users, desktop configuration tools, support for POP/IMAP clients, disk space controls, e-mail aliases and public folders?
- Mobile access. Is OWA included? Are all current mobile devices (Android, Windows mobile, Symbian, iPhones, Blackberrys) supported? Can e-mails be pushed to the users?
These are six primary risks you should be aware of if you’re contemplating taking your business into the Cloud. It’s not an exhaustive list though and you would be well advised to seek counsel from others who have already taken the journey before you – and have the bullet wounds to prove it.
Chris Cann is a solicitor and consultant with Cann Consultancy Limited advising law firms on systems and IT, risk and compliance, and management and strategy. He also practises as a consultant to Martin-Kaye. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org  or call 07711 929 153