Over the last few weeks, we have discussed the rapid rate at which technology for lawyers has been developing. With these rapid developments, come a slew of issues that firms must consider when determining what legal case management technology is right for them, such as: what is the difference between “hosted” and “cloud”; how secure is the cloud; what do the ethics committees say about technology; what are the cost benefits of the cloud; and what product truly understands the nature of our practices?
These are all critically important questions that we must ask ourselves before making any decision about which technology will best support our clients and team. To date, our Mastering the World of Legal Technology series has covered all of these topics, except what are the cost benefits of cloud versus self-hosted law practice management software?
What are Self-Hosted Systems?
Though you likely already know the answer to this question, let’s begin here to make sure we are all on the same page. Simply put, self-hosted matter management systems are those systems that you have on your premises. They are the servers powering up your firm that sit right in your office space (usually a closet) and the PCs to which they are connected. With a self-hosted system, everything is within sight and under your immediate control. Small firms might not have a “server”, but rather a network of a few computers, though not as complex as a server setup, these computer-to-computer networks are still self-hosted systems.
What are the costs associated with Self-Hosted Systems?
To some degree, this will depend on the size of your firm. Larger firms require more computers, servers with more capacity and power, and more user licenses. Not to mention the ongoing support necessary to maintain and secure these systems. The costs for implementing and maintaining an on-premises case management solution are not necessarily cyclical—sometimes they are sporadic and hidden. To maintain an on-site system, some of the costs include:
- The actual server and networking equipment.
- Computers for each work station.
- Server software and software for each PC, including anti-virus and security software.
- IT support—either in house or through a vendor, including ongoing support for daily issues, as well as bigger issues like hacks, accidents, lost laptops, etc.
- Server replacement: The “useful life” of your server is about 3-5 years and replacement costs need to be taken into consideration.
- Security personnel to watch over the physical premises 24/7/365.
- If the firm has more than one location (even a simple satellite office), individual servers are required in each branch, leading to a monumental hike in costs.
- Access to data is restricted and often not available across multiple devices or platforms.
We must highlight the fact that more important than the cost of security and maintenance of the system itself, the security of your data is under higher risk as it is contained in a singular location. Any act of God, a breach, power backup failure, etc. poses a serious threat to the safety of your data. To fully understand the security issues related to on-premises systems, please see our previous article “Is the Cloud really secure?”.
On the other hand, cloud-based legal practice management software systems have undergone significant innovation and transformation over the last decade. These developments, led by the likes of Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, and Google, have seriously advanced the digital lives of individuals and businesses. You, your clients and your staff likely use the cloud multiple times a day, every day of the week.
What are the cost benefits of the Cloud?
IBM defines “Cloud computing, often referred to as “the cloud” [as] the delivery of on-demand computing resources—everything from applications to data centers—over the internet on a pay-for-use basis.” Cloud-based law practice management software is extremely elastic, it can scale up or down as your organization requires to meet your unique demands, which is a major plus for your organization.
All your data sits on remote server farms maintained by some of the biggest companies of the world such as Microsoft, Amazon, IBM, Google and do not sit locally on your systems, thereby making your organization lighter and nimbler. Importantly, in addition to being secure, cloud systems are much less expensive and include many features most law firms could not afford. Some of these features and cost benefits of the cloud include:
- No on location server and office costs, which in turn leads to absence of maintenance contracts, in-house IT and special server security personnel.
- Data backups across many locations equals more security from breaches, acts of god, environmental factors, etc.
- 24/7/365 proactive security monitoring performed by cybersecurity experts.
- Anytime, anywhere, immediate all access across multi devices and platforms leading to greater efficiency in collaboration and tracking.
- Costs incurred on a per machine/per year basis which leads to significantly lower costs.
- Significantly less time and costs associated with setup.
- Perfect for meeting your client’s demands from anywhere, at any time.
Comparing the two, it is evident cloud systems are superior in every aspect. They offer enhanced levels of security that even the largest firms struggle to afford. They provide all firms, no matter their size, with the latest cutting-edge technology that is constantly tested and improved upon. Finally, they accomplish all of these things for a fraction of the price of a self-hosted system, not to mention saving you from dealing with the countless headaches inherent to such systems. In short, you get significantly more for significantly less, all while having more time to focus on helping your clients. It is a win-win situation.
If you would like to see exactly how CloudLex can support your practice as you grow, you can schedule a demo now. And as always, please feel free to email or call with any questions you might have. We look forward to working with you and enabling you to take advantage of the cost benefits of the cloud to exponentially expand your practice.