A question that we’re getting more and more is, “what is cloud computing?” There is no simple answer to this question because it encompasses so many different technologies and services. For the sake of not sounding nerdy, cloud computing is when a technology may it be email, accounting, billing, or a database is stored offsite in a server farm or a hosted server solution. People don’t really think in terms of server farms, so that’s why they call it the cloud, it’s just a buzz word that means stored somewhere else. In the magical place called the cloud, all updates, maintenance and monitoring is done for you, you buy no hardware because you running on someone else’s system may it be Microsoft, Amazon or your IT provider. You may still be confused so I’ll give you an example, a cloud email solution that a lot of people use today is Google Apps for Business, Google’s business version of GMail. It’s an email service where the access is web based and email is stored on Google servers, not your PC. Any technology where the data is stored on a provider server is a cloud solution. One major benefit is that if your computer were to crash, all data would still be accessible via your cloud solution web access. Since nothing is stored locally on your PC, there is no loss during a catastrophe.
Cloud solutions are also much cheaper than more traditional technologies simply because there is usually a very low start-up cost, and there is no special hardware to buy. If you wanted to host your own email, traditionally you would have to buy a server, warranty, licensing and software, plus pay someone to set it all up and monitor it. You would also need spam filtering services to filter out all the junk mail, that’s an extra monthly cost. Altogether, we’re looking at approximately $4,000 for hardware and labor plus $125/month for spam filtering and offsite/cloud backup. If you were to choose a cloud solution like Google Apps for Business, the setup may be 5 hours depending on how many mailboxes you want. If an IT guy charges $100/hr that’s $500 for the setup and then $4/user/month. Oh and spam filtering, it’s included, and so is support so no need to pay for monitoring or backup. When you hear all this buzz about cloud computing, this is what people are talking about. They’re talking about cloud services that take the place of traditional more expensive technologies that are cheaper and work better. By now you should have a much better understanding of what cloud computing is, but here are a few more examples that may be useful for your law firm.
We’ve covered email, but what about documents and saving them to the cloud? Sugarsync is a document cloud solution. With this cloud software you have the ability to share documents between your office users, updates occur instantly and there is even security on files and folders which you only want certain people to access. It’s a great solution for small to medium firms. There are even mobile applications through Apple and Android that you can use to open and edit documents on your mobile device. At the same time, if you at a computer without Sugarsync installed, you alwasy have the ability to log in through the web to retrieve documents as well. The beauty of this is that all data is accessible via standard windows folders and a local copy is saved on each PC. When a document is changed, it updates on each user’s PC automatically.
For a firm of 5 it’s roughly $150/month when compared to google apps which gives you email, calendar, contacts, google drive and so much more for $4/user/month. Cloud billing systems are also popular. Quickbooks Online is an online version of Quickbooks giving you almost all functionality of standard Quickbooks plus the ability to time track on your mobile device. It’s a great solution for companies with multiple employees who must track their own time individually. No installation needed with Quickbooks Online, simply a web browser and your done.
Something that we are currently working with is migrating full systems to the cloud. In this situation the client leases space on a server or leases an entire cloud server. The clients information is then uploaded to this cloud server, profiles are created for each user and each user logs onto a server pre-built with a few or all pieces of software that the firm needs to operate. The benefit of this solution again is the lack of downtime. these cloud server hosts offer 99% SLA up-time. This is something we have just started doing, making office servers and downtime a thing of the past.
We hope that you have a much better idea of why cloud computing solutions are better for your firm, and why more traditional technologies are being left in the dust. If nothing else remember that they are cheaper, they hardly ever go down, and if your internet or power goes out, all you have to do is move to a different area to get reconnected. One thing that we will say is that all cloud computing solutions are not made the same. Make due the cloud computing solution fits your needs and make sure their phones support is acceptable. If they don’t provide phone support, run away.