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“Move client data online.” No statement sparks a greater debate among attorneys.
As Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway describe, either you are a “cloud champion” – and embrace the efficiency of accessing your law firm’s data anywhere, anytime – or a “cloud curmudgeon” - and you step haltingly into the 21st century, lugging USB thumb drives and paying local IT staff whenever something breaks.
What is the cloud?
Cloud computing provides secure, web-based portals to transfer documents between computers and mobile devices such as the iPad. You need an Internet connection to transfer documents to the cloud, but you can always access your documents locally. For more information, here is a quick overview.
Why does it matter?
Lee gives six solid reasons to move online:
1. Better security. I’ve got a team of talented, world-class engineers working at the firms I’ve selected (like Salesforce.com) who are devoted to keeping my data secure. They have a great deal to lose if their systems get leaky, and they have customers much bigger than me that will give them a good, strong, swift kick in the right place if they drop the ball. No offense to local IT guys, but many of them can’t keep their butt cracks hidden when they lean over our servers. Can we really expect them to hide much else?
Cloud companies have a vested financial interest in maintaining data security.
2. Economies of scale. Those same engineers are diligently improving their products every month so they can retain my business (and the business of those big customers). The features come at an alarming rate. The products get better and better. Between our phone, document management, and case management systems, we literally can’t keep up with the improvements coming at us. They’ve managed to bring lots of customers and money together for constant improvement.
Select a popular service provider, as these companies work constantly to improve and update data security.
3. Minimizing expense/relationship with local IT guy. I love our IT guy, but he and his team are a constant pain in the ass. We’ve got to keep up with what they’re doing and make sure it gets done. When we want to change something, we’ve got to get a quote, approve it, and wait for it to happen. We eliminate all those headaches by moving to the cloud, and we eliminate paying those folks as well. The less management of people we have to do, the happier we are.
Sometimes, it is more efficient to work with large, established companies that work remotely.
4. Data availability. Our data is available anytime, anywhere. The cloud providers assume you’re working away from the office since everyone is away from them. You don’t have to deal with logging in to your office system remotely. You simply fire up your browser, and your data is right there when you need it. iPhone access? Check. Android access? Check. Blackberry access? Check. If you need it, you’ll get it.
This is the number one reason why cloud computing matters. As a young attorney, I could never prepare as thoroughly for court if I did not have my documents with me wherever I traveled. Of course, you must take precautions: passwords, secure servers, and data encryption.
5. No more contracts. You won’t need to sign up for software maintenance contracts, IT support vendor contracts, hardware support contracts, etc. You’ll likely have a month-to-month relationship with your cloud provider. If it drops the ball, you move on. Just pick up and go to someone else if things aren’t working to your satisfaction.
Online services provide free support, free updates, and flexible arrangements.
6. Quick laptop replacement. Once you’ve moved all of your applications to the cloud, you’ll need minimal software on your laptop. Our current system runs on a laptop with a browser. We don’t need to install much of anything else. We can buy a PC or a Mac off the shelf, and it’s nearly instantly up and running. Since we can do most everything in a browser (along with a copy of Microsoft Office), we can purchase pretty basic machines like a low-end MacBook Air or even a netbook and be up and running in a moment. That avoids downtime when a laptop dies. More uptime equals more revenue.
Attorneys want security and mobility. Clients want lower costs and better service. The cloud solves all of these problems, so I imagine many more law firms will make the switch – especially now that the iPad provides the missing device to connect the office computer to the courtroom.
For questions, comments, or help using the Apple iPad at work, please contact me at email@example.com.
Upcoming EventsRoanoke Valley Paralegals Association
May 9, 2013
Topic: "iPad Presentation at Trial: Presenting Your Case with TrialPad, Keynote, and Exhibit View"