The cloud? Cloud computing? These technologies and their related buzzwords are floating around with increasing regularity. What are they, where are they, and what does this technology mean to the modern law office?
The good news is that you don’t need to be an IT wiz to understand what the cloud is. In fact, if you’ve ever used Gmail, Dropbox, or Facebook, you have already used the cloud! The cloud is simply software or services that can be accessed and used over the Internet using a web browser or app. Instead of being installed locally on your office computer hard drive, the software and data are stored on big computers connected to the internet (called remote servers).
So, when you use Facebook, all the processing and data storage (i.e. “Likes” and uploaded photos) is done on servers that are far away from you. You interact with Facebook using your browser, which connects to these servers. That’s cloud computing.
The name “the cloud” is thought to originate in the way computer networks were depicted in early diagrams explaining how the Internet works. They often showed a person sitting behind a computer connected to a collection of devices (servers and hard drives) that resembled a cloud. Thus, the term was born.
Now you know what the cloud is. The next step is to understand the many benefits of using the cloud – and why it’s critical to the success of any modern law practice.
Why use the cloud?
An increasing number of law firms are taking advantage of cloud-based services. These include real-time collaboration and scheduling tools (G Suite, iCloud), productivity and organization apps (Evernote), and a growing list of legal-specific cloud services for practice management. According to a recent American Bar Association TECHREPORT, lawyers and firms are becoming more comfortable implementing cloud computing options, with more than 80% of those surveyed saying they will continue in this direction. It’s easy to see why. Cloud-based solutions offer a range of benefits for firms of any size. Let’s look at some of the top reasons legal offices like yours use the cloud.
1. The cloud is always on and always available
Cloud solutions store your documents, settings, contact, templates and more on secure servers that can be accessed from anywhere, and are available 24/7. Gone are the days of everything you need to run your practice being accessible only at the office. Cloud solutions only require a web browser, an internet connection and your log-in credentials. Cloud computing makes getting meaningful work done wherever, whenever, a reality.
2. The cloud helps you save on IT costs (and IT headaches)
You’re already busy enough and need solutions that help you focus on growing your practice – not playing the role of in-house IT expert. The best cloud solutions are completely self-contained in, well, the cloud. This means there is no software to install, no licences to manage, and no worries if a hard drive gets corrupted or your in-house network goes down. Cloud solutions take care of all the updates to the software on their side, actively defend against viruses and intrusions, and regularly perform backups of your valuable data. Your work is saved as you go, so if your computer does crash, it’s no big deal. Everything is safe and secure on the cloud.
3. Getting up and running on the cloud is easy
Getting up and running with leading cloud-based solutions is easier than you might think. Once you log in, you can do all your work in a browser window just like with locally installed hardware. The best solutions look and act just their locally installed predecessors, and help simplify moving to the cloud by importing all your existing data and contacts or providing other easy ways to get you up and running quickly.
4. The cloud is safe and secure
One of the most often cited reasons for legal practices not already being on the cloud is security concerns. But the leading cloud-based services are much more secure than storing paper-based files or digital versions of files on computer or server hard drives at the office. Hard drives sometimes fail, files get corrupted or lost, and infrequent back-ups may not have your most recent working version saved. Power outages, floods, fires and theft are other risk factors for locally stored files. All of these potential pain points can be mitigated by using cloud solutions.
The best cloud services are locked up tight. They use modern two-step authentication techniques to make sure access to the application and sensitive data are restricted to verified users. All data is transmitted in files to and from your browser using encryption, making it extremely difficult for information to be read in transit. Data is stored in secure, dedicated data centres and is constantly backed-up. Some providers also co-locate data in multiple geographic locations for an extra layer of protection against loss due to natural disasters. In total, the cloud is a more robust system for data protection than even the most advanced on-site solutions.
5. The cloud is affordable
One of the most significant benefits of the cloud is its low cost of entry. With leading cloud-based platforms, you often pay a predictable ongoing fee and can add services as you need them. Others are based on a “pay for what you use” model and offer free trials and multi-user discounts. Everything is hosted in the cloud on the provider’s servers. This means you don’t need to manage and install software locally and you don’t need to buy and maintain your own expensive server infrastructure. Since cloud service providers regularly update and improve their solutions seamlessly in the background, you can say goodbye to pricey IT maintenance contracts.
Unity®: The cloud-based update to The Conveyancer®
With its roots in Canada’s original award-winning real estate practice management software The Conveyancer, Unity is purpose-built to help you run your practice more efficiently. Hosted in the cloud on dedicated high-security servers, Unity gives you a single, unified view of your customers and your business. It lets you manage all your matters, documents and workflow in one place – with all the convenience of being in the cloud. Built on bank-grade security protocols, Unity is the fast, modern, web-based update to The Conveyancer.