Many of our legal clients have asked us to help them decide whether to use Cloud or on-premise servers to host their business software, files and email. The decision is not a simple one, and there are a number of important considerations to using a Cloud solution or on-premise server(s) in your office.
There are dozens of low-cost Cloud solutions which are attractive to smaller firms and solo practitioners. Larger firms may opt for their own on-premise server(s) for convenience, a greater level of control, and faster speeds for local users.
A private Cloud solution is also a popular option for larger law firms, because private Clouds can be more secure and affordable than public Cloud systems.
So, which is the right choice for your law practice? Take the following factors into consideration in your decision making process.
Number of Employees
The number of employees in your business is an important factor in the decision making process.
Pubic Cloud solutions, like LexisNexis’ Firm Manager software, are priced on a per-user basis, which is attractive for smaller firms looking for a cost-effective option. However, public Cloud software can become very expensive as the number of users increases.
Larger firms will find that a private Cloud solution or an on-premise server is more cost-effective over time than a public Cloud solution. This is especially true when you need to connect systems to each other (when you need one of your programs to talk to another one) or if you can host multiple software systems on the same server, thereby increasing your ROI.
Connectivity and Usability
A high-speed and redundant Internet connection from your office is recommended when using any type of Cloud solution. Remember, like with anything in the Cloud, if your Internet connection is slow, then employee productivity will suffer – and even worse, if your Internet is down, then all work comes to a screeching halt.
A big part of the Cloud’s attraction is that it allows for total mobile accessibility. Everyone can access systems and files from anywhere and from any device at any time because access is Web-based.
One potential issue with mobile workers is if they are using public Wi-Fi connections to access your files and systems, as there are security concerns around public Wi-Fi. Firms that are concerned about mobile access should consider staying with on-premise servers or private Cloud solutions.
Security and Privacy
Protecting client data is paramount for law firms. The possibility for a data breach exists with both Cloud and on-site servers, so you should review your options with your IT partner so you fully understand the different risks involved with each option.
For on-premise servers, make sure to install robust firewalls to ensure the highest level of file protection and perform automatic offsite backups to safeguard against data loss.
Most public Cloud solutions provide a high level of security; however, all of your data is hosted on the same server(s) as other law firms. Large public Cloud systems are also a much higher-profile target for hackers than your on-premise servers, so there is a much greater likelihood that a public Cloud system will be targeted by hackers, and possibly even breached. Reports of hacked public Cloud systems are a weekly occurrence.
No matter which solution you choose, it’s critical to minimize the amount of downtime that you are exposed to in the case of a disaster.
Automated off-site backups are critical. You can setup an affordable Cloud-based backup system for your on-premise or private Cloud servers. Your options for a public Cloud solution are very limited, as you have little to no control of how the public Cloud service provider (again – something like LexisNexis’ Firm Manager) is backing up their data.
Fail-over protocols that protect against natural disasters and system failures are very important. Redundant systems are typically inherent in public Cloud solutions, and can be built into private Cloud and on-premise server solutions. If you maintain an on-site server, make sure you managed IT services company provides immediate technical support and urgent care, and monitors your system 24/7 to avoid unexpected down times or system disruptions.
Cost of Ownership
Many factors go into determining total cost of ownership of an on-site server compared to the per-use subscription fees of the Cloud: infrastructure purchase, installation and service; software purchases and licensing; hardware life spans; and training costs are among them. Because every law firm’s needs and environment vary, it is important to do a comprehensive cost analysis with your managed IT services provider to gain an objective look at total cost of ownership which is generally over 3-5 years.
At IND Corporation, we specialize in legal technology solutions for law firms of all sizes. Our IT professionals will perform a thorough analysis of your needs to help you arrive at the right solution for your IT systems – whether it’s an on-premise server, a public Cloud, or private Cloud solution. Contact us to discuss your needs!