On-premise versus the cloud –
a comparison for law firms
6 March 2019
Is your firm preparing for the future? Many law firms struggle with the decision to either keep all data on-premise or manage it in the cloud. Important aspects such as reliability, accessibility, security and mobility of each system will be taken in account into this comparison.
When evaluating and implementing new technology solutions, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of hosting it on-premise or in the cloud. So, how do you decide which option is best for your firm?
There are some benefits to running software on-premise. First of all, your users will only have to sign in once, not all cloud software support single sign-on. Although a password tool like Dashlane could eliminate that problem. Besides, all data and backups will be available to you, even when there is internet access. Last but not least, on-premise makes it easier to comply with the upcoming GDPR regulations. These regulations requires that clients take responsibility for policing the systems that run on their behalf. In conclusion, on-premise solutions offer proven integration capabilities and a stronger tool set for customization. After reading this, you might wonder what’s not to love about on-premise.
In the era of advanced technology that we live in today, the disadvantages of on-premise systems seem to grow larger each day. We summarize the intangible flaws for you below:
- Mobility – You can’t work remotely
- Accessibility – You can’t access all of your applications and data from every device.
- Security – A common misconception is that on-premise solutions are safer, they are actually easier to hack than the bank-grade security from the cloud
- Reliability – Small mistakes can practically disable all of your systems. Many law firms don’t have a big IT department that can make sure the systems are and stay reliable.
- Scalability – It is harder and more costly to scale an organization’s on-premise structure
- Centralization – For law firms with multiple offices around the country or world, it can be a challenge to ensure the data and applications are not fragmented along the separate offices.
Last but not least, the space and cost requirements are vastly higher than the cloud. Some costs to take into account are the costs upfront such as new servers, server software, server setup fee, backup system and Microsoft office licensing. Next to that there are ongoing costs like Managed IT services, IT support and email service. Finally, you will have unforseen costs for server crashes, unplanned repairs and data recovery. All of these costs can amount to serious figures.
Your law firm could reap the benefits of the cloud. Let’s examine some of the pitfalls and benefits of cloud computing. Possibly the single largest benefit of the cloud is that it will save your firm a lot of money. In fact, it’s a common misconception that only big companies can afford to utilize the cloud, as cloud solutions are affordable for smaller companies as well. With a service platform, cloud computing systems are more reliable than in house IT systems. Furthermore, most providers offer a Service Level Agreement which guarantees your law firm 24/7/365 and 99.99% availability.
Increasing computing resources gives you a competitive advantage over rival law firms. Your law firm can implement mission critical applications that offer significant business advantages, with no upfront costs and minimum implementation time. Cloud computing allows you to forget about technology and concentrate on your key business activities and goals.
Of course there are some disadvantages that we would like to mention as well. If you don’t have an internet connection, you will not be able to access any of the applications or data from the cloud. Even though cloud service suppliers implement the best security standards and industry certificates, you have to double check if your cloud partner is reliable & reputable before making the switch.
There are different types of cloud solutions depending on the size of the law firm:
Public cloud – Services and server infrastructure are shared with other clients. You are simply sharing space in the cloud, but you can’t access each other’s data. The biggest benefit to this option is the price tag. Examples are Office 365 and Google suite. This could be a good solution for solo and small law firms.
Private Cloud – Your company will still share a cloud environment with other users. However, this type of cloud software boasts many benefits. Contrary to the public cloud, it allows users to install their own applications. Which makes it more suitable to small and mid-size law firms, who favor their current systems and want them hosted in the cloud.
Hybrid Cloud – A hybrid hosting option allows you to keep client-based processes separate from in-house systems. Processes developed internally can be published to the cloud, and client portals can be developed without the involvement of your internal IT team.
If you haven’t heard of SaaS or the phrase Software-as-a-Service, it’s about time you did. It’s quickly becoming the technology of choice to replace conventional on-premise software. There is a steady growth of such solutions due to the enhanced mobile networks and faster connectivity. The SaaS model gives you instant business benefits with shorter installation times, updates and independence. The applications can be accessed from multiple devices, from anywhere in the world.
The decision to host technology solutions on premise or within the cloud can be daunting for today’s law firms. Whilst on-premise servers offer increased security and integration, cloud solutions also have their advantages in terms of mobility, scalability, accessibility and more.
If your firm is starting from scratch, you’ll most likely choose host your systems in the cloud. However, most firms already have systems in place, which makes the decision between cloud-based or on-premise software much trickier. We hope this article can help your firm by providing some guidelines on how to manage your law firm.