5 things lawyers should know when jumping in to the cloud
Posted by: INSZoom | Date: January 21, 2015
It's 2015, so it's no shock that many immigration professionals, including attorneys, utilize the cloud to improve the efficiency of their practice and get positive outcomes for their clients. In fact, it's probably hard to go a day without hearing about the cloud. Law firms and in-house departments that have adopted the cloud understand the benefits, and now it's time for professionals who have been holding out to get onboard.
The true day-to-day benefit of the cloud comes from it making life easier. Immigration-specific case management software puts U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and other nations' immigration forms just a few clicks away and reduces how often attorneys have to hassle with paper files. Lawyers spend less time looking for paperwork and more time helping their clients.
In order to invest in the most robust CMS available, attorneys need to understand a few things about the cloud and the current state of the cloud products market:
"The cloud may seem like a new concept, but it has actually been around as long as email."
- It's just a fancy term for the Internet. The cloud may seem like a new concept, but it has actually been around as long as email. Cloud computing is simply the storing and retrieving of data through the Internet instead of from a single computer's hard drive. Data in the cloud is securely stored in either the cloud provider's data centers and users send or access information to and from the cloud through an online platform, or in a private platform created specifically for a business. These options are known as Software as a Service and Platform as a Service, respectively.
- It's here to stay. More lawyers in and outside of the immigration sector are using the cloud for storage and practice management applications. What was once a new and exciting option is becoming the norm. According to the most recent American Bar Association Legal Technology Survey Report, about 30 percent of attorneys used cloud-based software in 2013 and 2014, compared to 21 percent in 2012. The rise in use is not only from younger attorneys who are entering the legal field knowing how the cloud works and how to implement it, but from professionals with decades of experience learning about and investing in this technology.
- It's as secure as you make it. There's a lot of talk about whether or not the cloud is as secure as when companies store data on their private internal servers. Both methods can potentially provide the privacy attorneys need to protect sensitive and confidential information. Ensuring the cloud is as safe as attorneys need it to be merely rests on lawyers doing their research and investing in a cloud provider that offers the right amount of physical security for their data centers and technological security for the traveling and stored data. The security advantage offered by the cloud provider is that it is often more cost-efficient for firms to not need separate IT support to keep their electronic defenses up to date.
- How you pay for it. The cost of the cloud can differ drastically depending on the services provided and amount of storage purchased. Some public clouds are free, like Google. However, cloud vendors who provide SaaS and PaaS will charge for their product and ongoing services such as the storage space and IT support. Many SaaS providers charge for the implementation plus monthly fees, which can be based off the amount of storage the firm needs. Firms may dislike the prospect of another monthly bill, but the cost of SaaS can often be deducted as a business expense, providing a tax benefit.
- Not all providers are created equal. The growing popularity of the cloud means the market is now inundated with a variety of providers and products, including many free options. However, not every cloud provider puts the same amount of time and effort into physical and informational security. Firms should invest in a vendor that's upfront about their security measures, provides data centers located in the U.S. and a digital environment protected by encryption and ISO certification.