How and why your law firm should move PCLaw to the Cloud.
Many law firms use PCLaw to manage their practice, bill their clients and manage their accounting. PCLaw is a powerful, long-running Practice Management and Accounting software solution by LexisNexis. Today, the legal software market has seen a lot of newcomers: cloud-based software that allows law firms to manage their practice in the cloud: anytime, anywhere. So the question for the millions of PCLaw users often becomes: Can you move PCLaw to the cloud? If so: what is the best method to move PCLaw to the cloud?
Old School vs. New School
First: A quick review of the web-based (often referred to as “cloud-based”) practice management software, such as Rocket Matter, Clio and My case. Being web-based: these software applications run in a web browser, which means (a) no software to install, and (b) you can access them from anywhere, and (c) no on-premise server to manage required. These are huge benefits. The catch? Today, these web-based applications, compared to their server-based counterparts (such as PCLaw) have significantly less functionality and features. Today’s web-based applications may seem watered-down, or too lightweight compared to the rich, robust functionality of server-based/desktop-based software like PCLaw. (And it only makes sense: the “old school” applications have had a decade-plus head-start, so its only natural that they do more.) I’m not necessarily making the argument that the old-school, server-based software is always better than the new-school web-based applications: just acknowledging what I hear frequently from law firms that they wish they could have the mobility, security and reliability of the cloud–but keep their functionality-rich software.
They can. In this post we’ll explore how to move PCLaw to the cloud.
How to Move PCLaw to the Cloud
Okay, you’re convinced. The Cloud is the promise land. So how do you move your PCLaw software to the cloud? There are a few ways to do it.
Do-It-Yourself. Yes, you can do it yourself: Build your own private cloud. You could rent rack space at your local data-center or colocation facility. You can buy a server, scaled for current capacity and future growth and install it in your rented. Then you can hire your local IT company to set it up and move your PCLaw, other software, documents and email to this new server, and hire them to manage it. Now your software and data is in a secure, reliable facility, and accessible from anywhere.
The problem with this approach? It only achieves some of the benefits of a true private cloud solution.
- You still have to buy the hardware and upgrades as necessary.
- You probably have to sign a long-term contract on the rack space.
- You still have to hire a local IT company to manage everything.
- You still own the equipment, and therefor the problems that come with them.
As you can probably ascertain, this is not the best method for most law firms to move PCLaw to the cloud.
Private Cloud. For most law firms the best method to move PCLaw to the cloud is a legal-centric private cloud solution. A Private Cloud solution is one where the users, each member of your firm, accesses your software, documents and email via a virtual desktop (and as such is also sometimes called a Desktop-as-a-Service, or DaaS, solution.)
Typically, a Private Cloud is an all-in-one service that will host your PCLaw, your other software, and your documents in a single platform. Ideally, the Private Cloud solution will include everything your firm needs, including:
- Virtual Desktop / PCLaw Hosting
- Software updates as necessary
- Microsoft Office for each user
- Exchange Email for each user
- SQL Server (necessary for the latest version of PCLaw)
- Storage for data and documents
- Legal-software-savvy support staff
- IT Help desk for your entire staff
When you find a Private Cloud company that provides the right ingredients: You’ll have everything IT and technology related that you need to get rid of your server, get rid of local IT support and work from anywhere eon a secure, reliable hosting platform.
A Private Cloud not only allows you to move your PCLaw to the cloud, but gets you out of the business of managing servers and IT, freeing you up to work and grow your practice. For these reasons, a Private Cloud is often the best way to move your firm’s PCLaw to the Cloud.
There are a few caveats when you move PCLaw to the cloud.
Move your entire firm. PCLaw interacts with other parts of your firm’s technology: It links to your documents. It integrates with your Outlook. For that reason (and others): It behooves you to move your PCLaw to the cloud… and the rest of your firm’s technology. Your other software. Your documents. Your email. Otherwise: you’re left with some of your practice in the cloud, and some not. This is a disjointed mess, ripe for integration problems, accountability issues (no one person or company is taking accountability for your technology as a whole) and general disjointedness. Trust me: Move your whole firm to the cloud, or don’t bother.
Legal-centricity. You can get a private cloud, or virtual server hosting, from anyone. Amazon and Microsoft Azure, for instance, are two popular “big-box” cloud providers with great name recognition. You could certainly get a private cloud for your PCLaw there. The problem: Good luck getting any support with PCLaw, or your other legal software from them. If the server is up and running: Their job is complete. The moment you have a problem with your legal software, or need to update your PCLaw: they’ll tell you to contact the software vendor, or your local IT guy. Which defeats a good portion of the reason you went to the cloud in the first place.
On the opposite end of the spectrum you have the local IT companies. Unfortunately for them, the small IT provider is losing clients every month to the cloud. When their customer abandons their server for the cloud: There’s little, or nothing for them to manage. As such, today many small IT companies have thrown together their “own cloud solution,” to stop the bleeding. Many of them are simply reselling a big-box provider like Amazon or Azure. The problem here is that your IT company, though local, and that’s nice, may not have the experience to build and manage a cloud infrastructure. And–chances are they serve many, many different industries (most IT companies do), and lack the legal focus and experience to make everything run well.
The lesson? In your search for a Private Cloud provider, make sure the companies you evaluate are not only legal-savvy, but only service the legal industry and have deep experience moving and supporting legal software such as PCLaw.
Due Your Due Diligence.
Beyond legal-centricity, there are a number of other serious factors to consider when selecting a private cloud provider before you move PCLaw to the Cloud.
- Are they established and well-regarded in the legal community?
- How secure is their cloud against hacking or a cyber-attack?
- Will your firm’s data be stored inside the US?
- Do you still own your data once you move it to the cloud?
- What kind of backups to they employ?
- What happens if their served a subpoena regarding your data?
The custodian of your data is an important role, so we recommend you do your homework. For some help, take a look at our Cloud Computing Due Diligence Checklist for Law Firms.