Common Questions About Running ProLaw in the Cloud
I spend much of my day here at Uptime Legal working with law firms and helping them overcome technology challenges and implement the right tools for their law practice.
Many of these firms use ProLaw to manage their practice. They love (and need) the robust practice management, document management and billing/accounting capabilities that ProLaw gives their firm. But many of these firms don’t have the same love affair with their on-premise servers.
Many of the law firms I work with are tired of dealing with onsite servers and IT headaches. They’re concerned about the security of their firm and client data. Many of them have (what they describe as) clunky, jerry-rigged remote access capabilities.
This leads many of these law firms to wonder about the cloud.
I share with these law firms that a private cloud is a completely hosted, entirely managed IT platform that will host their firm’s ProLaw, their other applications, their documents data and email—and includes all of the necessary IT maintenance and support they need. (More on this shortly.)
Often the law firm is intrigued, but has questions. Questions about the cloud in general, and questions about running ProLaw in the cloud.
So, in this article, I’ll share some of these commonly-asked questions, and answers.
1. Can You Run ProLaw in the Cloud?
Some law firms assume that only web-based software can be used in the cloud—and the only way to leverage more robust legal applications like ProLaw is to host them on your own servers.
This isn’t the case.
You can run ProLaw in the cloud, in what we call a private cloud.
2. What is a Private Cloud?
A private cloud, as I described, is a fully-managed IT platform that will host all of the technology that a law firm uses. This includes:
- Hosting for ProLaw
- Hosting for the firm’s other software
- Hosting of the firm’s documents/data/folders
- Hosting of the firm’s email (usually via Hosted Exchange)
In effect, a private cloud will host (and include support for) everything that your current on-premise servers do, effectively eliminating the need for those servers.
Learn More: Private Cloud – A Primer for Law Firms
Everyone in your law firm accesses your private cloud via a virtual desktop, that they can log into from anywhere.Within their virtual desktop every employee in your firm will find their ProLaw, their Microsoft Office, their documents—everything.
Learn More: Virtual Desktops for Law Firms
3. What are the Benefits of Moving ProLaw to a Private Cloud?
There are many advantages to ditching your onsite servers and moving to a private cloud.
Reliability. Assuming you’ve moved to a reputable private cloud provider, a cloud infrastructure will be infinitely more resilient, redundant, and reliable than a single server sitting in your law firm’s copy room or coat closet.
Security. With the same assumption as above, your data (and your client’s data) is significantly more secure with a private cloud provider, who has the resources and gumption to implement security measures like encryption, best-in-class firewall protections, security frameworks, a secure physical data center and more.
Accessibility. Being in a private cloud, accessed via a virtual desktop, you can access your ProLaw (and the rest of your firm’s technology) anytime, anywhere on any device. You’re no longer tethered to your workstation or your physical office.
Scalability. Being in a private cloud means you can scale up (or down) at a moment’s notice. Need to add or remove a staff member? It will take only a moment. Install a new software application? Done. Acquire or merge with another law firm?Its easy to add resources (spaces, apps, computing power) to your private cloud, but difficult (expensive and time consuming) to do so with an on-premise server infrastructure.
Less Drama. Generally speaking, life is simpler when you’re in a private cloud. Backups, security, antivirus, IT problems, server crashes—all go away when your servers are hosted offsite and your IT managed by a company in that business. When I talk to law firms that are still on-premise, the sentiment I often hear is, “It’s always something.” Moving to a private cloud cuts through and eliminates much of the IT drama.
4. What are the Risks of Moving to a Private Cloud?
The world of cloud computing isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. There are risks and caveats involved, and your firm should know how to address and avoid them.
Not all clouds are created equal.
With the advent of the cloud, many IT firms and other companies announced “me too!” and launched their own cloud offering. The problem is, they’re often not suited to the task. Cloud hosting isn’t for amateurs.
Many other cloud service providers:
- Aren’t exclusively legal-focused, and lack expertise in your firm’s software (such as ProLaw)
- Aren’t well-known, or well-regarded in the technical or legal communities.
- Will store or back up data outside of the US (creating serious data sovereignty issues).
- Simply resell another big-box, public cloud service like Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure.
- Don’t employ suitable cybersecurity systems and processes.
- Don’t provide any IT support beyond their own cloud (IE: if you can log into the cloud, everything else is your problem).
- Cut corners on help desk staff / support levels to offer discount pricing.
- Require long-term contracts.
Be sure to do your due diligence as you evaluate providers.
5. What are the Ethical Considerations for Attorneys with a Private Cloud?
Many years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for a law firm to be leery of the cloud, especially when they weren’t clear if their local bar “permitted” the use of cloud computing.
They thought, how ever insecure, unreliable or fallible their on-premise server was, that the cloud could somehow create a legal or ethical problem or them.
Now that cloud computing is mainstream many bar associations have shared their opinions on cloud computing, and even recommend it. According to an article posted on the ABA website:
“Most fears about trusting client information to ‘the Internet’ are misplaced. One misconception is that client information may be intercepted as it travels across the Internet. Modern encryption has progressed to the point where it is unbreakable. Cloud companies understand that their reputations for protecting customer information are crucial. A single security breach would cost them dearly. Your client information is more secure stored on a reputable, professionally managed cloud server than on your office computers.”
6. How Does the Private Cloud Transition Process Work?
The migration process (or Onboarding, as we call it at Uptime Legal), will be a make-or-break function of your law firms’ adoption of the cloud. A smooth, well-managed onboarding will bring your law firm to a new level of efficiency and reliability… while a poorly-managed onboarding will stop your firm in its tracks.
So, what does the process of moving your ProLaw and your firm to the cloud look like? Every cloud service provider likely has their own procedure. By way of example, here is an overview of our process of moving a law firm (and its ProLaw) to the cloud.
Discovery: The cloud provider should learn and thoroughly understand your current technology environment. They should understand every application you use, know what version you use and what any potential caveats are.
Planning: The migration plan should be carefully scheduled, coordinated and communicated to you. The provider should know exactly which components of your technology will be moved, when and how.
Cloud Setup: Next your private cloud provider will build the actual private cloud, provisioning cloud servers for your firm. The private cloud will be built for your firm and configured to host your software, including ProLaw.
Data Collection: Your cloud provider should have a systematic and painless process to acquire and transfer your data to their cloud platform.
Launch: Your cloud provider should execute a near-seamless transition from on-premise to the cloud.
Training: Your cloud provider should provide firm-wide training on the very first day: ensuring your entire firm is completely comfortable and familiar with the new platform.
Support: Beyond the cutover, your cloud provider should be always-available for when your team needs help – whether they need help with the cloud itself, with ProLaw or with their individual computer.
7. Where Can I Learn More About ProLaw in the Cloud?
If your law firm uses ProLaw to manage its practice and would like to learn more about private cloud, I invite you to Contact Us, and we can help you explore a private cloud for your law firm.