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Software is heading to the cloud, and that’s a good thing, right? While there may be more hosted software solutions for law firm practice management than ever before, there are still many solo/small law firms undecided about whether to take the plunge into cloud computing.

There is a consistent uptick of migration to the cloud, and 31% of lawyers surveyed for the 2013 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report are using cloud-based services, an increase of 10% over the year prior.

Benefits of Cloud Computing

There are a number of ways to engage with cloud computing; likely, you already are if you play games from the App store, download or listen to web-based music, or have an email account with Google or Yahoo!

From a law firm convenience standpoint, cloud computing for practice management software enables a variety of efficiencies in productivity, training, time management, billing capture, and scheduling. Not to mention, having an IT expert on board 24/7 who is focused on managing bug fixes and software updates is certainly a solid enough reason to explore the benefits of Software as a Service (SaaS) sooner rather than later.

Small law firms that already depend on web-hosted software are realizing immediate benefits like disaster recovery, daily data backup, shared files, easy accessibility, affordability, and less reliance on IT.

To realize the benefits in your firm, consider subscribing to practice management software in the cloud. When you do, be sure to pay close attention to the Service Level Agreement (SLA). Vendors that cater to law firms know that confidentiality and security are the two most critical factors in practice management software. Review the SLA for basics about data migration, ownership, what happens during a breach, location of data, and encryption, to name a few.

Other Considerations about Cloud-Based Software

Security. When software is hosted on external servers in the cloud, someone is putting 24/7 attention on data security. Data warehouses should be located in the U.S. and built to specifications. Ask whether third-party security teams physically monitor and patrol the physical plant.

Intrusion-detection and virus-protection software are important for any off-site data warehouse. There were 1.5 million cyber attacks in the U.S. in 2013, according to the 2014 Cyber Security Intelligence Index by IBM Security Services.

When a small or solo law firm is practicing law, there is no time to manage cyber security. That’s one of the top reasons for choosing practice management software in the cloud—the experts will handle the data breach for you.

Data Integrity. With hosted software, the user no longer needs to worry about installations and deployment. The latest version of software is “automagically” installed and upgraded. In addition, bugs disappear frequently, often without users’ knowledge. Nightly data backups occur, and regardless of the frequency of document retrieval, download, upload, or archiving, data integrity always remains intact.

Accessibility. Access to data and software should come “at a price.” That means easy access is not granted. There should be restrictions placed on users, and each employee will have appropriate security credentials with close monitoring.

Data Safety. The latest technology for data safety should include encryption with the same standards used by banks and brokerages (256-bit encryption) with SSL certificates used for data in transit. Understand the certifications of the hosted provider and ensure these security certificates are current.

Power and Climate. Electricity may be an afterthought when it comes to data warehouses; however, the power supply for servers, climate control, and fire suppression are extremely important. These factors contribute to the quality of up time for data retrieval, and users should not be inconvenienced if the substation delivering power is not in close proximity to the physical plant.

About The Author
Larisa Tehven is manager at Thomson Reuters Firm Central, a web-based law firm practice management software solution for solo and small law firms.

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