Why Cloud Computing and Software as a Service is a Good Fit for Legal Practices?
The legal sector has seen a couple of false dawns regarding the adoption of cloud technology; concerns around the security of confidential (and often sensitive) data, and an overall lack of in-house technical knowledge are the primary reasons for these.
Recently, however, this situation has begun to change and CSPs are seeing more legal practices deciding upon IT as-a-service strategies that are contributing to the drive towards cloud adoption. Legal practices are extremely cost conscious and the ability to procure IT services on a utility basis provides them with a way to correlate their costs with client billings.
Other factors that have contributed to the rise in adoption of cloud IT services are that law firms need to reduce their operating costs, they need to accommodate the increase in consumerisation of technology and as the cloud has matured, they now have a way of addressing data geo sovereignty and security issues.
As with almost every other business since 2008 and the ensuing economic uncertainty felt by all, law firms and legal practices have been forced to become much more conscious of managing their running costs. Subscription models for cloud computing and the basis for procuring IT by only paying for what you use – when you use it, is a very attractive proposition.
Consumerisation and the way that by delivering applications and business services on-demand and to any device, cloud computing is re-inventing the workplace, is a more interesting driver for increased adoption of cloud services. Demand for the greater productivity this brings to an increasingly mobile workforce is growing and will only continue to do so. The mobility aspect that the cloud delivers is of particular interest to larger law firms that have greater numbers of lawyers operating nationally and internationally; being able to access their desktop applications on-demand via laptop, tablet or smart-phone is a valuable benefit. This greater accessibility reduces workflow timelines and increases overall efficiency – great for legal practices in terms of billing and great for their clients in terms of quicker resolutions and approvals of their matters, in a controlled and securely managed way.
A further driver is the increase in availability of cloud-ready practice management and case managementapplications that are easy to deploy and that can come bundled with hosted desktops and business productivity suites.
Security and the sensitive nature of data they create, manage and store is still a reason that legal practices are reluctant to fully embrace cloud technology. Cloud vendors and hosting providers will argue that the levels of security delivered by public and hybrid clouds in today’s data-centres, protected by managed firewalls and other network devices, are far greater than those offered by traditional on-premise servers. Those responsible for procuring (and even managing) IT services within legal practices are becoming more familiar with the concept of cloud based IT services and are gradually putting more trust in SaaS, IaaS and DaaS.
Hosted desktop solutions that are fully managed by the CSP or MSP also improve availability of service; fault tolerance and disaster recovery solutions that would previously have been cost prohibitive for many firms are usually delivered within the terms of the cloud subscription model. Removing CapEx from the IT procurement equation in favour of OpEx also means that much smaller legal firms (and even solos), can afford to implement the same comprehensive IT services as their larger competitors. Many such fully managed cloud and hosting services offer automated back-ups; these are significantly more reliable than traditional, on-premise methods and definitely more secure, resulting in tapes being left in the office overnight, a thing of the past.
Strategic advantages of cloud IT include the enablement of on online legal services, delivered by complex customer portals and software; available as a service these are no longer out of the reach of many small and even mid-sized practices. They increase efficiencies in managing practices of any size and make managing cases quicker and easier, to improve the overall customer experience.
An example of this is conveyance services – they are increasingly delivered online and this segment of the legal services marketplace has become far more competitive, appealing to a younger, cloud-aware and internet savvygeneration of house-buyers and developers s a result.
Our ISV partners that develop LOB software specifically for legal practices report increases in adoption of their cloud-ready applications and cite the fact that in order to begin using them, their customers no longer have to commit to lengthy hardware or software deployment projects. In fact, once cloud-ready, deploying any new systems, features or security updates is seamless and can be completely automated to minimise disruption.
Benefits for all
As virtual platforms and cloud-based IT strategies become more commonplace within the legal sector, we will see larger numbers of leaner, greener and ultimately more profitable law firms delivering services that are more efficient, more secure and available at more competitive rates.
Is your law firm considering a move to the cloud, but you don’t know where to start?
Are you still concerned about cloud security and want to find out more?
Want to know more before introducing online services for your clients?
7 Essential Considerations for Securing Your Business Cloud
Data security and privacy are by far the highest priority concerns of businesses when it comes to cloud adoption, with the majority of enterprises not entirely comfortable with storing their regulated data in the cloud.
The recent discovery of Heartbleed and the revelations of how it could have affected the security of payment card and user details for two years, has resulted in businesses working harder than ever to fully understand the risks that any computing, (not just cloud computing), may present, in order to apply policies and controls that will protect any regulated or critical business data.
To help businesses decide on a security strategy for their public or hybrid cloud environment, here are 7 essential security considerations.
1. Architecture security
Consider the security of your entire cloud stack; including the hardware infrastructure, virtual servers, network devices and firewall rules, connectivity of end-points, applications and data.
2. Identity Management and access management
Every cloud environment should provide a framework for user identification and authorisation. Cloud service providers (CSPs), should provide solutions for identity management and roles-based provisioning of services that incorporate authentication processes to reduce the risk of loss or compromised data.
3. Data protection
The security of each phase of data lifecycle requires consideration and planning; this includes end-point protection for when data is originated, storage when in a multi-tenancy environment, data loss prevention (DLP) and digital rights management (DRM) when data is being used, confidentiality and integrity as data is shared, the sanitisation of archived data and, ultimately, data-shredding.
4. Information Governance
Within the cloud paradigm, businesses relinquish control of data security, making governance a key consideration. Information Governance provides visibility of and control over corporate policies and processes, and standards for the development of applications as well as the implementation and monitoring of cloud services.
5. Risk Management
You should ask your CSP for details of their framework for risk assessment and find out how they provide for vulnerability scanning and remediation services, application testing and so on; you should also find out about their roadmap for their (and therefore your) future.
Your business’ compliance obligations will be determined by the industry you operate in, or those of your customers and the physical location of your, (or your CSP’s) data-centre; (for example: European & US data compliance regulations differ greatly, and this will have a bearing on where your cloud host servers and any load-balancing systems reside).
7. Data and service availability
Look beyond the usual uptime guarantees on offer from your CSP; Your cloud security considerations should also provide protection from and prevention of instances such as loss of access, server or network failure. They should also include strategies for disaster recovery, denial of service attached and business continuity.
ASI Cloud provides comprehensive security to businesses of all types and scale; the enterprise that requires provision for complex compliance and governance obligations, medium sized organisations that have concerns over loss of service or data compromise and the small business that is moving into a cloud environment for the first time.
Are your concerns about security delaying a move to the cloud?
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Peter Stephen is a Surrey based freelance creative and marketing copywriter – to hire, call 07917 36 01 01 or email firstname.lastname@example.org