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Which cloud model is best suited for core practice management applications in the legal sector.

With governance, security and data residency being among the top focus areas for IT managers, you could think that cloud just wouldn’t work for the legal sector. Yet, law firms are becoming increasingly comfortable with experimenting with cloud services for different tasks and non-critical applications. As hosting services become more mature and the cloud suppliers develop more awareness of the importance of data residency and security guidelines, law firms are now able to look at deploying cloud services across their entire business; even underpinning their core practice management systems.

Now, legal IT managers are focusing on how they can harness the flexibility that cloud gives them, whilst bringing more governance and control back into their law firms. It can be a complex minefield of different cloud models to sift through in order to find the perfect fit for your firm, and many organisations choose to avoid the cloud altogether due to the complexity involved in selecting a supplier.

Below are the different cloud models that legal firms can consider for their core practice management platforms – and what is best suited to a legal organisation.

Private On-Premise Cloud

This is a traditional onsite infrastructure that is built and designed to provide a shared resource pool of hardware within your own organisation (i.e. shared storage over dedicated storage, virtualised machines centrally managed) with a strong focus on the automation of infrastructure provisioning. The IT department acts as an IT service provider back into the business.

Pros

Cons

  • A bespoke solution that can be designed and integrated into existing IT environment

  • Not shared with other organisations, reducing risk of performance or security impact

  • Ability to build in disaster recovery, higher levels of connectivity, and define your own SLAs

  • Security often lower than expected - a server room within an office won’t have the protection of a provider’s datacentre

  • Once capacity is used, you will have to pay for upgrades

  • Day to day management and support of platform falls to internal IT team

Hosted Private Cloud

A hosted private cloud is a dedicated compute, storage and networking resource, hosted by a cloud provider. The solution is tailored and built to the client’s requirements, rather than being a standardised service within a multi-tenant environment as typically offered by Public cloud providers.

Pros

Cons

  • Security and compliance

  • Specialist manages, monitors and supports cloud environment

  • More control to define SLAs, connectivity requirements and data security and residency

  • Deployment takes longer than adhoc services such as email and web-hosting hosted with a Public Cloud provider

  • More expensive than multi-tenant public cloud services due to economies of scale

Public Cloud

The public cloud space encompasses larger providers such as Amazon and Microsoft that offer multi-tenant solutions to clients, often located outside of the UK. Services are usually standardised and commoditised with little room for tailoring to firm’s specific IT environments.

Pros

Cons

  • Costs are low and easy to set up and activate – often just requiring a login and credit card

  • Often flexible for easy scaling and can offer the ability to self-provision services

  • A scalable model within which there is lots of room for clients to grow

  • Hidden costs e.g. disaster recovery, security, backup add-ons

  • Multiple cloud accounts can be difficult to manage

  • Security - legal firms need to know where data is located and held, even after the service has ended

Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid cloud shares resources between your on-premise infrastructure, and your cloud provider (be that Public or Private). This could mean having onsite mission critical applications deployed locally, and specific applications hosted in the cloud and consumed within a software-as-a-service model.

Pros

Cons

  • Flexibility to expand Public Cloud and Private Cloud services whilst still having core solutions onsite in your datacentre

  • Scalability – ability to cope with spikes in performance by consuming more services from the cloud at busy times and scaling back down to local infrastructure during quiet periods

  • Security - workloads on the most appropriate platform for the application

  • Enables services to be delivered from the appropriate provider (public, private, onsite), depending on security, performance and SLAs

  • Management of multiple cloud services in addition to your onsite technology

  • IT team will need to be both a manager of services (from cloud providers) and IT service providers themselves (of their own infrastructure) to reach a balance.

In the long term, it is expected that law firms will move out many of their generic IT platforms to the cloud, in order to reduce the amount of time spent managing and fixing hardware issues. Most law firms will adopt a hybrid model, making use of public cloud services where it fits whilst retaining control over core Practice Management applications by placing them with a private hosting provider or by delivering the platforms onsite.

More and more legal firms are looking to the cloud to deliver cost-efficiencies and flexibility, and many are becoming confident with the IT security and datacentre compliance capabilities. This shows a marked change in the industry as the cloud market matures and starts to offer a secure, viable cloud option to legal firms.

 

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