Local vs. Remote IT Support for Law Firms

Planning to move to the cloud is becoming the obvious next move if you’re a law firm. Having on-site equipment to be maintained, supported, and updated can be cost-ineffective, especially compared to the benefits of having everything accessible in the cloud. But, for some firms the idea of moving their entire practice to the cloud raises the fear: “How could my firm function without a local IT person?”

Local Generalist or National Specialist

The problem is, odds are the best legal-centric IT service providers in the country are not located in your back yard. So many law firms have been left trying to find the best IT provider within 30 miles, when now they have the opportunity to work with the best IT provider within 3000+ miles!

One common concern is that having someone local will provide better support. Support is critical to a law firm and not something to be taken lightly.

Local law firm IT service providers will strongly advocate that their ability to come onsite is of the utmost importance. They’d be right… if it was 1995.

IT Support in the Cloud Era

The reality is modern day remote access and video conferencing tools have made support a breeze for technology companies to provide quick support. When you add cloud to the equation this becomes even truer.

Cloud computing will help you to completely eliminate on premise servers and the complexities surrounding them. When your cloud provider has taken on the role of hosting your servers / applications that platform is now local to them and locally accessible to their engineering team if troubleshooting is needed. Your local environment will become much more simplistic, thus easier to manage. Local data, user profiles, and so on are no longer present. This means end user computers and devices are interchangeable, turning a PC crash for example into minor issue vs. a catastrophe.

From a law firm’s perspective every minute is critical. Technology hiccups need almost immediate resolution or the consequences of lost time could be detrimental. So when the clock is ticking, what is the go to method for help? When is the last time you needed someone onsite? The turnaround time tends to be hours even days in some cases. A good tech company will have a help desk of support engineers ready to help within a matter of minutes.

When On-Site Law Firm IT Support Comes In Handy

This is not to say that there is never a situation where onsite care could come in handy.

One scenario that comes to mind is disaster – what happens if there is a major flood or hurricane and your computer network is knocked offline? Even though this is a rare situation, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Number one: your ability to work is not tied exclusively to your office’s network equipment in a cloud environment. With off-site IT systems and support, weather issues and network outages will not knock your servers offline. And, if your office loses Internet access, you can still log in to your system remotely with a wifi hotspot, phone, or your home network – literally any location with Internet access. Even in the event of a major network or power failure, the internet is readily available in modern day society. This gives your people the ability to get back to work almost immediately.

The second thing to note is most reputable cloud companies have a plan when such an event would occur. Make sure that you investigate these scenarios with them to make sure that they are prepared for such events.

The third thing to note is that in the event of a weather emergency where your office is knocked offline (and you have on-site servers), your IT person would still need to be able to make it into your office to get you back online. In New York City during Hurricane Sandy, many law firms were knocked offline where their servers were either flooded or otherwise taken offline. And because of the weather issues, it took days to weeks in some cases before firms were back online.

How would your firm work without access to your documents and emails for a few weeks?

The Verdict

While there are minor and rare benefits to having onsite care, remote IT support is faster and more effective on a day to day basis.

The hardest thing to overcome for most is the culture change, as many have grown accustom to a person’s physical presence over many years of operating in this fashion. The reality is local providers are like a baby blanket, providing an illusory sense of security rather than actual security.

What Really Matters

The most important factors when moving to the cloud: Is the provider legal centric? How many cloud platforms have they built for law firms? How many cloud platforms have they built surrounding the applications you use specifically? Do they provide support and play the role of liaison when technical issues arise with your legal software? Are they firmly established and healthy as a company? Is there any buzz surrounding them in the legal industry as a whole?

Next: Do Your Own Analysis and Due Diligence

We recommend that you do your own private-cloud vs. on-premise cost analysis, then do your due diligence when selecting a cloud provider.

Your firm depends on it.

About the Author: Aaron Eittreim
Aaron Eittreim is the Chief Business Development Officer of Uptime Legal Systems, North America's leading provider of technology, cloud and marketing services to law firms. Aaron oversees Uptime's new business and channel departments. Follow Aaron on LinkedIn.

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