After decades of neglect, the legal profession is finally in the technology limelight. In the last few years, a smorgasbord of legal technology products has come onto the market. There are new gadgets, apps for tablets and phones that can be used in the courtroom and, of course, new “case management solutions.” Unfortunately, many of these so-called “new case management solutions” really are not all that new. Why? Because they are old products accessed in a new way. They are, essentially, fake cloud solutions, not the real cloud.
What exactly is a “fake cloud” solution?
The image above, of one computer connected to another, is a good visual representation of most "fake cloud" solutions. A "fake cloud" solution (sometimes referred to as a "hosted" or “hybrid solution”) is a software that is purchased and downloaded onto an off-site workstation (computer). In order to access this program, you must connect to the off-site computer through your own computer using a VPN (a virtual private network), Remote Desktop, Citrix, etc. Though you may not realize it, you likely have experience with this type of arrangement already. Have you ever worked from home using some sort of service that allows you to connect to the computer in your office—such as Team Viewer, Log Me In, Go To My PC, etc.? Well then, you have already utilized hosted solutions. That’s right, a hosted solution is, essentially, just accessing a computer from another location.
Often, a hosted solution is a legacy software product presented in a new wrapper. Though hosted solution providers often talk about “the cloud” and use graphics that most people attribute with the cloud, they are not—in fact—the nimble, versatile, cutting-edge cloud products that are revolutionizing law technology (and many other industries as well). These fake cloud solutions may share some characteristics with the real cloud. For instance, they may be cheaper than maintaining your own IT infrastructure. However, they do not offer the versatility that modern law firms require in order to compete. For example, most hosted solutions are not available anytime, anywhere and on any internet capable device. They require a computer. Are you a Mac user? Some of these hosted solutions will tell you they are Mac compatible. Technically they are, but when you connect to it, you will be forced to use a Windows system. Many of these solutions run in a single mom and pop "data center,"—which could be nothing more than a suburban basement. This means if something happens to this data center—fire, flood, theft, etc.—you could lose access to your entire system for days or weeks at a time, if not forever.
Also read: Will The "Real Legal Cloud" Please Stand Up?
The real cloud, on the other hand, offers you everything that fake cloud/hosted/hybrid solutions do not (and more). Cloud solutions are not software that has been installed on an off-site computer that you access through a remote access program. They are not hosted in single data centers. Cloud solutions are generally run on massive, secure and constantly monitored data centers managed by some of the largest technology companies in the world—Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and Amazon Web Services, for instance.
Why Cloud Solutions?
Legal Cloud solutions allow you to access your data anywhere, anytime and on any internet capable device. You can access a critical document while on the run, without powering up your laptop and trying to find an internet connection. Mac users won’t be forced to deal with the Windows systems they hate. Want to integrate the six years’ worth of files you have sitting in Dropbox? That’s not a problem either, just click a button, enter a password and it’s done. In addition, cloud providers operate multiple data centers in different regions—and your data is mirrored across them. So, if one data center suffers a catastrophic flood or goes offline for some reason, you will never even know because you will still have access to all of your data. In addition, all these data centers are monitored by cybersecurity experts 24/7/365. These are just a few of the many benefits to being on the cloud.
Hosted systems are not going to revolutionize your practice. They’re not going to bring you up to speed. They are antiquated systems in a pretty, new box. If you truly want to grow your practice and bring your firm into the modern world, follow in the footsteps of Fortune 500 companies and cutting edge law firms around the world. Get on the cloud. It’s a decision you will not regret.