Law Firms – PCLaw® in the Cloud
Over the past several years I’ve witnessed (and assisted) hundreds of law firms move to the cloud. What was once considered bleeding-edge is now mainstream, a gold-standard even in how a law firm should manage its technology. And perhaps more than any other industry, lawyers and law firms have so much to gain by moving to the cloud, which is exactly why we made it our mission to bring the benefits of the cloud to law firms nationwide.
There are a lot of different paths to the cloud for a law firm. Many law firms, when contemplating the cloud, consider moving to a web-based practice management application. Other firms evaluate implementing Office 365 to move their email and document storage to the cloud.
But what about the many law firms that use, and are committed to, premise-based software like PCLaw®? Can you host PCLaw in the cloud? How does it work?
In this post, I’ll answer all those questions and more.
PCLaw – a Brief Overview
If you’re not familiar with PCLaw, or if you need a refresher:
PCLaw is a powerful software application that manages a law firm’s clients, contacts, calendars, time, billing, and accounting. PCLaw is most known for its robust billing and accounting functionality and is one of the few legal practice management suites that have deep and rich tools to manage billing and accounting in a variety of ways.
PCLaw can manage business and trust accounts and generate comprehensive financial reports that other applications in the space just can’t do. Many years ago, PCLaw primarily managed a law firm’s billing and accounting.
PCLaw has come a long way since then and has expanded into more practice management functions beyond just billing and accounting. Today PCLaw has tools to manage the full cycle of many law firms, including client and contact management, matter management, calendars, and more. PCLaw’s evolution over the past decade has made it a true all-in-one solution for many law firms.
Related: PCLaw – an Uptime Review
PCLaw in the Cloud
PCLaw is a long-running, very popular legal practice management and accounting solution. Which means it’s had decades of development in which it has been updated and improved upon. It also means that PCLaw is premise-based software.
It used to be that premise-based software (like all software at the time) required the law firm to buy and maintain an onsite server to host the software. You’d buy a server, which would host your PCLaw database, and each user in your firm would connect to the server to work. That server would require regular maintenance, updates, repair, and backups.
Not today. Today, you can run your PCLaw in a private cloud.
Not a New Version of PCLaw
Before I define and explain exactly what a private cloud is, I should clarify one important note: What we’re about to explore here is not a new, different version of PCLaw. The cloud solution for PCLaw is not a “cloud edition,” or a new iteration of the software. Rather, it’s the same PCLaw that you know and love, hosted in a secure, private cloud.
What is a Private Cloud?
Generally speaking, cloud computing includes any software, storage, service, or platform where the applications or data are stored on with a third-party hosting provider, rather than your own computers or server. This could range from web-based software to cloud storage services.
Within the broad world of cloud computing exists the private cloud, which is your own dedicated cloud server for your firm and its software and data. A private cloud solution provides your firm with its own server that is professionally managed and maintained by the hosting provider.
As described earlier, PCLaw, being premise-based, requires a server. And in the case of a private cloud solution, the private cloud is the server. It will host your PCLaw, just like an onsite server would. But without the maintenance and IT headaches that comes with owning and managing your own, on-premise server.
A legal-centric private cloud will not only be optimized to run PCLaw in the cloud, but will also include other essential software and IT services, including:
- Hosting for your other legal and productivity applications
- Support and maintenance for your legal software
- Microsoft® Office®
- Storage for your documents and data
- SQL Server (required by many legal and business applications, including PCLaw)
- Local IT support
- Printer and network support
Put another way, a private cloud is a wholistic, end-to-end solution that hosts and provides support for all of the technology your firm uses.
How PCLaw Works in the Cloud
Now you understand, conceptually, how PCLaw works in the cloud.
But how does it work in practice? What does it look like? What is the user experience?
When your PCLaw is in the cloud, everyone in your firm will log into a virtual desktop. Within your virtual desktop, you’ll find your PCLaw, your other applications, your documents, and your email. You, and your firm, can log into your virtual desktop from anywhere: the office, a client site, or from home; And from any device: Your work desktop, your laptop, even your iPad. This makes you far less dependent on any one computer or device (or location).
Functionally, you’re logging into a remote system, kind of like a dedicated computer in the cloud. When you open and work with any application, such as PCLaw or Microsoft Office, you’re actually working in that application on the private cloud server, not the device you’re connecting from. Current Internet speeds make this not only possible, but (with the right private cloud platform) as seamless as if you were working on your own local desktop.
Imagine coming into the office after your firm has moved to a private cloud. You log into your local desktop computer, on which there’s only a few icons: Your favorite browser, your recycle bin, and a shortcut to log into your virtual desktop.
Your computer’s local desktop might look something like: