Hosted vs. Web-based Legal Practice Management

There’s more to the cloud than just web apps:
You don’t have to sacrifice functionality to take advantage of the cloud.

A recurring theme with the many law firms we talk to is confusion around what “cloud-based” really means and what their options are when they’re looking to ditch their servers and move their practice to the cloud. The world of cloud computing is admittedly full of buzzwords with overlapping meanings. The problem this creates for law firms: misunderstandings that we’ve seen lead to frustration in choosing a cloud solution, or missing great opportunities to leverage the cloud altogether.

All too often we find that firms feel they must choose between the mobility and ease-of-entry of a web-based app and the functionality and robustness of a traditional, premise-based practice management application (and sacrifice one or the other). They don’t.

Not Just Semantics

We’re not looking to pick apart terminology just for sport. In this article we’ll clearly define hosted practice management, web-based practice management, the differences (it’s apples and oranges, really), the good, the bad who is best suited for which.

Cloud-based and Web-based are not the same thing

First: Let’s quickly clarify some fuzzy terminology. Cloud-based and web-based are not synonymous. Describing something as cloud-based is a very general description, and generally just means hosted on another company’s infrastructure. There are a number of applications or implementations of cloud computing, one of which is a web-based application. While web-based applications are the most commonly understood uses of cloud computing, it’s certainly not the only one, and not the only implementation of cloud computing that can bring a lot of advantage to a law firm.

Web-based Practice Management

Since it’s likely the one you’re the most familiar with–we’ll start with web-based practice management applications.

What is Web-based Practice Management?

A web-based practice management solution is one that you access from a web browser. Unlike traditional (non-cloud-based) software there is no software to install. The software publisher periodically will provide updates and new features that also don’t require installation. All of the storage and processing happens on the provider’s computer systems. Web-based practice management applications are relatively new, tend to be simple, light-weight and favor ease-of-use over robust functionality.

Popular Applications

Popular web-based legal practice management applications and their respective publishers include:

About the Author: Dennis Dimka
Dennis Dimka is the CEO and founder of Uptime Legal Systems, North America's leading provider of technology, cloud and marketing services to law firms. Dennis is the author of Law Practice as a Service: How and Why to Move Your Law Firm to the Cloud. Follow Dennis on LinkedIn.

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