My practice software is already 'in the cloud'. I think... What's the difference?

Don't feel bad... We hear this a lot.

With so many mention of 'cloud computing', it's not uncommon to think that everything is already in the cloud.  You may in fact be using certain aspects of the cloud.  For example, you are likely using email services that are in the cloud, your mobile contacts might be in the cloud, file and photo sharing services in the cloud, social media, banking, movie tickets online and so many other services.  Without getting technical at all, 'cloud' is way of using 'computing resources' in another location accessible via the Internet.   There's more to it with the technology in the backend.  We can have a separate conversation later about that if you are interested in techie geek talk.  There are many 'things' you can put in the cloud.  There are also many services that can run in the cloud.  Services that are 'web-based' are examples of applications that run on the cloud. However, cloud computing covers more than just 'web-based' applications. Unfortunately, you may hear the words 'cloud' and 'web' used interchangebly when in fact they are not the same.  So... You may have some data in the cloud, or maybe you are using an application that is web-based, or maybe you have a combination of these.

So what's the difference?

Software installed in your office (a.k.a. on-premise)

You incur a capital cost and purchase all the hardware and software necessary to run your firm. To save money (and because you are not a techie), you purchase only what is essential, affordable and low-tech (maybe even consumer-grade).  Software is installed on each workstation and server at your office.  All staff members at the office use their work computers to access all their applications and files.  Everything is hosted locally at your office.  The software running on your workstations have all the features and functions you need to run your business.  You need to have some level of IT support onsite to securely setup and maintain your computer network and to support your staff when they have technical issues.  You may or may not have a dedicated IT support company or person. In this case, you are the ad-hoc office tech person.  You are also responsible for purchasing and keeping all your software and hardware up-to-date with latest security patches, fixing damaged or defective computers and upgrading workstations, servers and networking equipment as they become obsolete.  Internet connectivity and power is typically not redundant with the possibility of outages due to inclement weather or other circumstances out of your control.  All your data is located onsite.  Your entire law firm relies on the safety and security of your physical office.   Your staff productivity is affected if anything goes wrong with your physical office space (flooding, theft, power outages, traffic jams, construction, etc.).  Users may be setup with limited remote access functionality which allows them to connect to the office network from home.  Remote access depends on the assumption that your office is accessible and fully operational. Every few years you incur another capital cost in upgrading aging workstations, servers, software and other equipment.

Web-Based Services

Everything you know about the cloud is probably related to web-based services. A web-based service is software that is installed at a remote system and typically accessed via a web browser.  An office using web-based services to run their business most likely is also running a number of on-premise software. For example, QuickBooks online is a web-based version of QuickBooks.  You may be using QuickBooks Online for your accounting, yet have several other business applications on-premise like Amicus, Microsoft Office,  Adobe Acrobat, etc.  Web-based services are purchased as a monthly subscription and have a limited feature set and functionality compared to their on-premise counterpart.  It's very similar to comparing a mobile app version of your favorite desktop software.  Mobile apps, although very convenient, have missing features from the full application that you may not be able to do business without.  The same is the case with many web-based law firm applications.  Depending on the size of your firm or the features needed, you may find the convenient and affordable web-based version to be lackluster and missing key features, such as integration with your other business applications.  Integration of all your business applications is key for increased staff productivity.

Cloud Hosted Solution

An enterprise-grade, fully redundant, compliant and secure infrastructure is cost prohibitive for most small and medium-sized businesses.  With Legal Cloud Workspace, typically within a week, your entire infrastructure, including desktops, servers, applications and data is moved to the same high-end infrastructure for a low monthly flat-rate.  Instead of incurring a capital expense for your infrastructure, you now have a tax-deductible operating expense.  You never have to worry about upgrading or maintaining any software, workstations or servers as these are included as part of the solution.  Now imagine your on-premise computer network with all your full featured applications running in the cloud.  You get all the benefits of on-premise and web-based services but without the compromises.  

You work exactly as you do today with the only change being that your programs are accessed via the cloud and backed by an enterprise-grade IT solution at an SMB price.

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