Is the legal sector fully benefiting from cloud?

Technology is changing the face of business, no longer just a tool to be used but rather an integrated part of operations. This is true of all industries, particularly in the face of challenges such as shrinking budgets, compliance issues and the drive to be more efficient.

Cloud computing is one such technology that continues to have an impact on business, despite the fact that it is no longer new. Instead, as the comfort in using and confidence in deploying cloud is at an all-time high, businesses are looking for new ways to use it and fully realise the benefits of adoption.

However, not all sectors are equally confident. Heavily regulated industries, such as financial services and legal, have been a little slower on the uptake. Law firms, for example, operate in an environment where compliance, regulation and mitigating risk are key objectives so cloud models, such as private and public, have been viewed with some scepticism mainly due to security concerns.

Confidence in cloud

The truth of the matter is that the barriers to adoption that traditionally plagued cloud users have been largely overcome — particularly by the most cited challenge of security. In fact, according to the Right Scale 2016 State of the Cloud survey, lack of skills surpassed security concerns as the main challenge for the first time. What this demonstrates is that confidence in the technology (and indeed its vendors) has increased, but gaps have also been identified in terms of the necessary IT capabilities that are needed in house.

This leads to a discussion about one of the benefits of moving to cloud in the first place — relying on a third-party vendor in terms of expertise and experience. Traditionally law firms host their own data and servers in house, with a dedicated IT team tasked with management and maintenance. While this may have met compliance stipulations in the past or requirements around data privacy and data sovereignty, there is a significant investment needed to maintain both the skills of staff looking after the environment, as well as the technology itself.

The benefits of using a cloud provider

If this data were to be hosted in a cloud environment by a trusted provider, in-house IT teams could assign their resources more efficiently and simplify the management of the overall IT estate because they don’t have to worry about managing and maintaining servers. In the cloud, this falls to the vendor, an organisation that specialises in looking after IT infrastructures, to make sure the data is also available and safe, with built-in resiliency.

Of course this leads to another benefit of cloud, which is cost savings. With nothing hosted onsite, law firms have no need for servers and hardware which means no CAPEX and they can move to an OPEX cost model.

It’s all about security

In addition, when it comes to security, moving data to the cloud can actually be the answer to those concerns. Firstly, the physical security measures that a cloud service provider would have in place in and around their premises and datacentre sites would be more than any law firm or practice could reasonably spend. Secondly, in terms of encryption, firewalls and resilience, cloud providers have the capabilities and resources to ensure that all boxes are ticked and that data is safe in the virtual world, and the risk of cyber attacks or data breaches have been mitigated. This is largely due to the number of security frameworks (such as ISO 27001, CSA Star for cloud security, or PCI DSS for physical security) that are used to secure sites and data.

Even if a law firm was to use a hybrid model of hosting — making use of both private and private cloud environments for business critical data and other information or systems, respectively — the data and infrastructure are far safer than in-house hosting, while the cost benefits, scalability and flexibility of cloud in general still apply.

Maintaining uptime

In addition to these advantages, the use of cloud-based disaster recovery is also an attractive feature for legal concerns. As more and more businesses, particularly in the legal market, are seeing the benefit of designing, implementing and testing business continuity plans, cloud is seen as a cost-effective and efficient way of staying on top of these requirements. Typically business continuity plans can be difficult to develop and expensive to test without disrupting operations. However, using disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS), legal firms can rely on the expertise of cloud providers in developing, implementing and testing the plan, in a cost-effective, agile way that keeps pace with the organisation’s evolving requirements.

Conclusion

Legal firms operate in a landscape that changes daily. Increasingly technology is seen as the most effective way of helping these businesses meet the demands and challenges of the market, while remaining as cost-effective as possible and still being compliant and mitigating any risk. Cloud, particularly hybrid cloud, has a key role to play in bringing the benefits of agility, improved security, cost savings and flexibility to these organisations.

Nick Hayne, business development manager, Pulsant

For further information, please visit Pulsant’s website at www.pulsant.com

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