Cloud computing: how could it benefit your law firm?

Cloud computing: how could it benefit your law firm?         

The term “cloud computing” isn’t new. Reportedly, it was first used in Houston, Texas, in late 1996.

According to Antonio Regalado, writing for the MIT Technology Review: “Inside the offices of Compaq Computer, a small group of technology executives was plotting the future of the internet business and calling it ‘cloud computing’. Their vision was detailed and prescient. Not only would all business software move to the Web, but what they termed ‘cloud computing-enabled applications’ like consumer file storage would become common.”

Ten years later, Regalado adds: “Large companies such as Google and Amazon began using ‘cloud computing’ to describe the new paradigm in which people [were] increasingly accessing software, computer power and files [online] instead of on their desktops.”

What is cloud computing?                                                       

Fast forward to the present and cloud computing continues to change the way businesses all over the world operate – including law firms of all sizes and types. Cloud computing basically means using remote servers hosted online to store, manage and process data, not a local network server or a personal computer. Usually, data is sent and received online via a secure, encrypted connection.

Some businesses use cloud computing to manage their accounts, others to access customer relationship management software/information or to back up their data. The cloud can provide a convenient home for project collaboration software, so that individuals working in a range of locations, some not in traditional office environment, can remotely access data and work together.

Access comes by simply inputting your username and password online. One of the great advantages of using cloud-based software and services is they are available at any time, providing you have good internet access, whether you’re using a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or your smart phone.

Increasing popularity

The Cloud Industry Forum estimates that 63 per cent of UK businesses are planning to “move their entire IT estate to the cloud in the near future”. Its latest research found that about three quarters of businesses now using the cloud use two or more services and store an average of 29 per cent of their data in the cloud.

Many UK law firms have been using cloud-based solutions for some years, with many more joining them or expanding the software and services they use. If yours isn’t one of them, what benefits could you be missing out on?

Key benefits

The Law Society lists the key benefits cloud computing offers as:

Cloud computing helps some firms to become more efficient and productive, enabling people in various locations to work together, while in some cases offering much better safety and security when storing data.

Businesses are usually charged a monthly fee based on the software or services they use, granting the added flexibility of being able to buy more capacity, services and features when you need them. And should your premises suffer a serious fire or flood – you won’t lose critical data.  

Risks to consider

The Law Society lists the key risks to law firms as:

Law firms also have serious data protection, information security, confidentiality and business continuity issues to consider before using cloud-based software and services. Risks can be mitigated, of course – especially if the benefits make it worth the effort.

Read The Law Society’s practice notes on cloud computing.

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