The mist is clearing around Cloud
Very soon, if not already, law firms will cease to have a vague understanding of ‘cloud’. By coming to recognise aspects of cloud in every key business process from banking to telecoms, we will approach a tipping point when business leaders will start to look at getting the best out of cloud, rather than whether to make the move.
What makes the adoption of cloud attractive for law firms is that it comes with ready-made solutions to the challenges of business continuity and disaster recovery, especially as these apply to the regulatory requirements within the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct and Lexcel.
A route to compliance
It is widely understood that compliance officers for the legal practice and its finance and administration (COLPs & COFAs) face a considerable burden of responsibility; what is less well-recognised is that planning for managing risks and the continuation of business in the event of a serious interruption can be greatly alleviated with cloud-based systems.
The new Code of Conduct 2011 is now in place and Chapter 7 – “Management of your business” – is where cloud offers some powerful advantages for law firms. Cloud computing provides an ‘always-on’ network – enabling you to access your systems and data anytime, any place, anywhere and from any device. What surprises most people is that it can be considerably more reliable and secure than on-premise IT, with client data being safer, more easily recoverable and efficiently managed by providers who live and breathe data and IT security.
An internet connection is all you need to access all your data and applications. This removes the risk of downtime through local disruption and disaster, and with the recent floods and bad weather, that’s not such a remote possibility, thereby guaranteeing continuity and an excellent standard of service to clients.
Getting it right
Once firms come to accept the game-changing benefits of cloud, there are some key issues for consideration, including the location of data and the agreement of payment terms for the hosting service. On the first point, UK practices are advised to seek a private cloud solution with a UK host, as there is a conflict between European disclosure agreements and the U.S. Patriot Act which requires that U.S. companies (including those that host the data of UK firms) comply with U.S. government data requests. On the issue of payment terms, it is recommended that practices agree flexible monthly payment arrangements for hosted services, thereby removing the impact of high capital expenditure when least expected.
In an article entitled ‘Top Ten Storage Predictions for 2013’ Internet News predicted that 2013 would be the year businesses find the balance between which functions are best served in the cloud and which are best delivered on premise. For large organisations, the article suggests this will almost certainly result in hybrid environments where cloud solutions are used for distributed workforces and offices. For smaller organisations, it suggests that they will most likely use cloud solutions for data backup and full network access.
Adapt and succeed
All of which points to a cultural shift occurring. Few industries are having to deal with the kind of challenges facing the legal sector, yet with these challenges come opportunities. For law firms, with the availability of a host of systems available via the cloud, along with technologies that support virtual practices and alternative business structures, success will be achieved by those prepared to adapt.
This article was written by smartlegal.it, providers of managed IT, hosted desktop, hosted applications and business continuity and disaster recovery for law firms.
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