Timeslips is long-running time tracking and billing software, often used by law firms. QuickBooks is similarly mature accounting software, also used by law firms.
The two are often used in tandem by law firms, collectively creating something of a law practice management suite.
Even today, many law firms choose to use Timeslips and QuickBooks together, rather than using dedicated Law Practice Management software. This is because some law firms don’t need the nuance and functionality included with most case management software, but rather need simple time and billing and accounting that’s universal and accessible.
Today, more and more firms are looking to break the chains of expensive, in-house servers, rid themselves of the headaches of managing IT, and empower their team to work from anywhere. This prompts many law firms to look to the cloud.
In this article, we’ll explore how to move and use both Timeslips and QuickBooks software in the cloud.
Who This Guide is For
This guide on running QuickBooks and Timeslips in the cloud is for anyone that uses either or both applications (or plans to), and wants to explore doing so in the cloud. This includes:
Law Firm Partners that drive the IT strategy for their law firm
Law Firm Administrators that are charged with managing the firm's technology
Law Firm IT Consultants that and are looking for solutions for their client's applications
In this, our ultimate guide to QuickBooks and Timeslips cloud hosting, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to assess and implement QuickBooks and Timeslips in the cloud.
Introduction to Timeslips
First, a brief introduction.
Timeslips, by Sage, is time and billing software. Timeslips is used by many different industries, but is favored among any practice that bills by the hour (consultants, accountants and lawyers). Timeslips is very mature and feature-rich.
Billing / Invoicing
Introduction to QuickBooks
QuickBooks, by Intuit, is long-running and almost undeniably the most well-known small/midsize business accounting software.
QuickBooks is industry-neutral accounting software, which means it can be (and is) used by many different industries, including law firms. QuickBooks has two product-lines, it’s Professional product, which runs as an installed application on your PC or within a Virtual Desktop (more on this shortly), and their Online product, which is the web-based version of the QuickBooks software.
QuickBooks Online is the web-based version of QuickBooks. The advantages of QuickBooks Online are that it runs in your web browser, no software installation (or updates) required. The disadvantage is that QuickBooks online doesn’t provide as many features as its older, desktop counterpart (Professional).
QuickBooks Professional (sometimes also referred to as QuickBooks Desktop) is the traditional, desktop-installed version of QuickBooks. The advantages of QuickBooks are a more robust, more developed set of features.
QuickBooks Professional (Desktop) has more features and capabilities than it’s online counterpart. As a result, many law firms require the robust features of QuickBooks Professional, but the flexibility of the Cloud.
Some of the more advanced functionality available in QuickBooks Professional, but not QuickBooks Online, include:
Robust Budgeting / Budget vs. Actual
Sophisticated Custom Reporting
Loan Manager / Amortization Table Management
Don’t Sacrifice the Right Software for the Cloud
The cloud brings many benefits to small and midsize law firms (which we’ll enumerate shortly). Some law firms, looking for the reliability, security and mobility of the cloud assume that the only way to achieve these benefits is to abandon their software and move to a web-based software application, such as switching from QuickBooks Professional (Desktop) to QuickBooks online.
This is not the case.
You can keep the software you’re committed to and enjoy the benefits of the cloud in a QuickBooks and Timeslips hosting solution.
Why Timeslips and QuickBooks are Better in the Cloud
Timeslips and QuickBooks are great for law firms. And they’re even better in the cloud.
For most law firms, life is simply better in the cloud; and Timeslips and QuickBooks are no exception. You can run Timeslips and QuickBooks in the cloud, and before we explain exactly how Timeslips and QuickBooks cloud hosting works, I’ll take a moment to explain why, in most cases, both applications are better in the cloud.
The Best of Both Worlds
The cloud brings mobility, accessibility and security. Combined, Timeslips and QuickBooks provide a rich, comprehensive platform for managing your firm’s time, expenses, clients and billing.
By running Timeslips and QuickBooks in the cloud, your firm can keep the robust software that you’re firm is committed to and relies on, while enjoying the advantages of the cloud.
Managing Servers & IT is a Pain
For a long time managing and supporting on-premise servers was simply a necessary evil to run quality legal practice management software. Applications like Timeslips and QuickBooks bring a lot of value to law firms, but to run effectively for a team, they require a server (one way or another), so law firms had to suck it up and get a server.
That server requires a lot of maintenance, both proactive (to keep it up and running) and reactive (fixing things when they break). To run Timeslips and QuickBooks on-premise, you’ll need to:
Purchase Server Equipment Every 3 - 5 Years
Purchase and Implement Microsoft SQL Server
Implement and Manage Backups & Disaster Recovery
Implement and Manage Data Security (Encryption, etc.)
Retain an IT Consultant or Firm to Keep Everything Running
Running Timeslips and QuickBookson in a cloud hosted environment, on the other hand, gives you the benefits of having both applications, without the inherent drawbacks of server ownership.
Work from Anywhere
Being tied to one computer, one office or one location is a huge disadvantage to the modern law firm. Attorneys and support staff need to be able to work anytime, anywhere. Then need to be able to enter billable time from home; review a contract while traveling to the airport, and check their court deadlines from a Chromebook while at a client site.
Running Timeslips and QuickBooks in the cloud gives your entire firm the same access to your software (and, with the right solution, all of your applications, documents and email) from any kind of device and any location.
Unchain your self from the office, ditch clunky VPN and remote-computer-login “solutions.” Timeslips and QuickBooks in the cloud, via a Private Cloud, provides a secure, easy-to-use Virtual Desktop that gives you access to your legal software, documents and email from anywhere.
Data Security & Compliance
As law firms, we have ethical obligations to keep our firm and client data secure. Cyber-attacks are only becoming more prevalent, and compliance requirements only more stringent.
Your Timeslips, your QuickBooks, and your law firm’s data, is orders of magnitude more secure in a reputable cloud platform. Cloud service providers are in the very business of keeping their client’s data secure, and usually employ the following security measures.
Data Encryption In-Transit and At-Rest
And-to-End Virus Protection
Protection Against Ransomware
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
Redundant Data Centers
Backups with Point-In-Time Recovery
Enterprise-Grade Firewall Protection
Active Threat Monitoring
Regular Security Patching
Dedicated Private Network Per Firm
Dedicated Private Virtual Servers
Now compare that to a server, in your law firm’s office, sitting unmanaged, in a coat closet or copy room. It simply doesn’t make economic sense for all but the largest law firms with in-house servers to invest the resources necessary to build this level of security.
But it does make economic sense for a cloud provider to invest in building and managing bank-grade security. And as a client within that system, you get your own slice of that fortune-500 caliber infrastructure.
And don’t make the mistake that just because your data is in your physical building it’s somehow, magically more secure. If your firm (a) has a server, and (b) is connected to the Internet, then you’re already on the cloud, in a way that hackers and other online threats can reach you. The only question is: Who’s managing your security? (And–is it being managed at all?)
More and more law firms are using Mac computers, at least in part. Some (typically smaller) law firms are all-Mac by practice. Others have a mix of Windows and Mac computers. Even law firms that are all-PC in the office often have members, even senior partners, that use a Mac from home.
Most desktop based law firm software is Windows based, which severely limits Mac users’ ability to work from their Mac computer. (Historically, this required running Parallels or similar virtual Windows software on your Mac, which is infamously slow and clunky).
Running Timeslips and QuickBooks in the cloud, particularly in a Virtual Desktop platform, gives your Mac users the exact same access to your Timeslips, QuickBooks and the rest of your law firm software, as your PC users. Virtual Desktops are, by their nature, platform agnostic.
More Reliability, Less Downtime
Capable Private Cloud platforms like Uptime Practice are built with enterprise-grade infrastructures, and managed round-the-clock by professionals. This minimizes downtime for your firm, and maximizes productivity. Professional-grade Private Cloud solutions typically include:
Redundant Physical Servers
Redundant Routers & Network Equipment
Redundant Upstream Internet Providers
Redundant Data / Hard Drive Arrays
Geographically Redundant Data Centers
Multiple Redundant Data Backups
Point-in-Time Data Recovery / Restoration
Routine System Maintenance & Patching
24 x 7 x 365 System Monitoring
All of these measures add up to reliability and uptime for your systems and your law firm.
Flexible & Scalable
The cloud is flexible and scalable, and running Timeslips and QuickBooks in the cloud is no exception.
With a Private Cloud solution, you can add (or remove) users, applications, storage and other features when you need them. Unlike the rigidity and financial commitment of server ownership, the cloud helps your law firm stay agile.
We’ve worked with many law firms to conduct a side-by-side financial analysis of cloud vs. on-premise IT; and we consistently find that the Total Cost of Ownership is notably less in a Private Cloud.
This is almost always the case, and factors in the up-front costs, monthly and potential unplanned IT costs associated with server ownership and local IT support.
We’ll cover the economics of Timeslips and QuickBooks in the cloud in more detail below. (And we’ll provide some nifty tools for you to conduct your own financial analysis.)
In today’s Work From Anywhere and hybrid work models, creeping decentralization becomes a real risk.
Law firms with multiple locations have been working against this problem for a long time. Now add employees that work (partially or entirely) from home, and the risk of data and applications being spread in too many different locations becomes pronounced.
A Private Cloud platform serves as your firm’s single, central hub, where Timeslips, QuickBooks and all of your firm’s applications and data lives. One system to log into, one virtual workplace, regardless of the geographical makeup of your team.
Timeslips and QuickBooks in a Private Cloud
Now that we’ve covered why Timeslips and QuickBooks are better in the cloud, let’s talk about how exactly Timeslips and QuickBooks in the cloud works. To do that, let’s first take a short step back and describe the difference between cloud-based (web-based) software and desktop/server-based software.
Before cloud computing was mainstream, most software in the world (including applications like Timeslips and QuickBooks) was installed on the firm’s on-premise server, and ran from each of the employee’s desktop computers. The software’s “engine,” or core components (including the database) lived on the server. All of this meant that using this software, such as ProLaw, necessitated a server.
That is: Owning (and therefor maintaining) a server became a fundamental prerequisite to use the software. Owning and managing servers and in-house IT was a requirement, and sometimes viewed as a necessary evil, in order to use law firm management software.
And that’s simply the way it was.
But not today. Today, we have the technology that we call a Private Cloud. A private cloud is a hosted, managed IT platform that provides the same (or better) function that a server would; it hosts a law firm’s legal applications, documents email and more, and provides greater mobility, reliability and security while doing so.
Server-based software like Timeslips and QuickBooks require a server, that hasn’t changed. And in the case of a private cloud, the private cloud is the server.
To be more specific, a typical law firm private cloud for Timeslips and QuickBooks will often include:
Hosting for Timeslips, QuickBooks and your other legal software
Cloud storage – a file-system for your files and folders
Support for Timeslips and QuickBooks – including updates and maintenance
Office 365 – for productivity
Microsoft SQL Server
All necessary server maintenance, backups and security
IT Help Desk support for your team
The “Private” in Private Cloud
Private Clouds are so-called because every law firm (called a “tenant,” in cloud computing parlance), has their own segregated, dedicated working environment. In most cases, that means:
Dedicated/Private Virtual Servers
Dedicated/Private Virtual Network (VLAN)
Dedicated/Private Active Directory
Dedicated/Private SQL Server/SQL Database
If you’re not familiar with these technologies: What it amounts to is that your law firm has it’s own private space for it’s software, documents and data, separate from other law firms, which gives your firm an added level of data security and privacy.
That’s the “back-end” of running Timeslips and QuickBooks in the cloud. You and your team will interact with the Private Cloud via what’s known as a Virtual Desktop.
Timeslips and QuickBooks in a Virtual Desktop
We’ve covered the benefits of running Timeslips and QuickBooksin the cloud, and how a Private Cloud is a means to that end. But what does working in a Private Cloud look like? How does each person in your firm use it?
The answer is: a virtual desktop.
A Virtual Desktop is a desktop, like the Windows or Apple desktop you log into and use at home and work, that is hosted in the cloud, and that you can access anytime, anywhere. Typically, your Virtual Desktop will have the software that you need every day, like Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, and of course Timeslips, QuickBooks and your other legal software.
The Virtual Desktop makes your law firm’s software, which is otherwise only available from your work computer or while connected to your office’s servers, available from any computer in the world.
Virtual Desktop solutions are sometimes also referred to as “Desktop-as-a-Service,” or DaaS (analogous to “Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS).
How Virtual Desktops Work
In a traditional computing environment, your core law firm software is installed on your physical, local desktop. That is: The workstation or laptop you use in the office. In this traditional model, everything runs locally, and your applications are installed on your individual computer.
A Virtual Desktop is different. In a Virtual Desktop environment, very few, if any, applications are actually installed on your local computer. Often, the only icon on your local desktop is a shortcut to log into your Virtual Desktop.
When you (or anyone in your team) logs into your Virtual Desktop, you’ll have access to all of your law firm’s software, documents and data, including:
Your Timeslips Software
Your QuickBooks Software
Your Other Legal Software
Your Productivity Software (Microsoft Office)
Your Documents, Files and Folders
Your Outlook & Email
This gives your entire firm access to Timeslips and QuickBooks (and all of your applications, documents and data) from anywhere, on any device.
Virtual Desktops also mean that you no longer have to install, update and maintain each of your applications on every computer within your firm. Instead, your Cloud Service Provider simply keeps all software updated for you.
Virtual Desktops bring many advantages to law firms. Specifically, Virtual Desktops are likely the best technology route in any of the following scenarios.
Your firm is committed to the Timeslips and/or QuickBooks
Your firm uses a combination of devices (Windows, Macs, Tablets)
Your firm needs to be able to work from anywhere
You're tired of dealing with servers and IT headaches
Your firm needs to keep your applications an data secure
We’ll cover selecting the right Virtual Desktop provider, and doing your due diligence, shortly.
Virtual Desktops Demonstrated
For an example of working in a Virtual Desktop, watch our demonstration of Uptime Practice.
Migration: How to Move Timeslips and QuickBooks to the Cloud
Now that we understand how Timeslips and QuickBooks in the Cloud works, the benefits and the functions, we’ll walk through how to move Timeslips and QuickBooks to the Cloud.
This process is typically administered by your chosen Cloud Service Provider, but could be done via a combination of IT consultants, software consultants, and cloud hosting providers.
Steps to Move Timeslips and QuickBooks to the Cloud
Step 1: Onboarding Project Manager
Your Timeslips and QuickBooks cloud migration should begin he same as any well-managed project: with a single point of contact.
Your project manager (at Uptime Legal, we call this person the Onboarding Manger) should begin by clearly setting expectations and clearly communicating the next steps, removing any uncertainty as to the path that lies ahead. Your Onboarding Manager should define specific timelines, expectations, and what is needed from you.
Step 2: Discovery
While a good cloud service provider will have a well-defined and documented process for onboarding, the process is never cookie-cutter, and no two law firms are alike. A good Timeslips and QuickBooks cloud migration process should begin with deep discovery and assessment of the firm’s current environment, including:
Inventory of Software to be Migrated
Inventory of all Documents and Data
Identifying Email Accounts and Settings
Documenting Third-Party Services, Logins and Accounts
Inventory of Network Devices and Peripherals
Testing of Firm Internet Speed
Step 3: Build
Next, your Timeslips and QuickBooks hosting provider will begin building your private cloud environment. A good provider will have a well-developed process, and can build your private cloud quickly. The Onboarding Manager and engineering team will install your software, provision your email accounts, and generally build the “shell” of your complete IT platform. This process includes:
Provisioning of Virtual Servers
Setup of Each User Profile / Virtual Desktop
Installation of Your Firm's Software
Setup of Your File System (Including Permissions)
Thorough Testing of Your New Cloud Environment
Step 4: Go-Live
Next, your Timeslips and QuickBooks cloud provider will begin the process of collecting your data from current locations. Each element of your firm’s technology will be moved over, component-by-component. This cutover process includes:
Each Applications Data/Database (including ProLaw)
The physical transfer should be seamless and all data transferred securely to the new cloud platform. The Onboarding Manager and his team should thoroughly test every application (once data has been imported), and test computers and peripherals.
The Timeslips and QuickBooks hosting provider should be very flexible in scheduling the cutover, including executing it over an evening or weekend, so that, the entire cutover process takes no more than a day, and results in little or no user downtime.
Step 5: Training & Ongoing Support
A good Timeslips and QuickBooks hosting provider knows that first impressions matter.
The key to employee adoption is a reliable, easy-to-use system from Day One. Your cloud provider should have a comprehensive plan for training your entire staff and provide an extra layer of hand-holding as necessary. The Onboarding Manager, who “owns” the migration, should be there for you on the front lines: helping with training and tying up loose ends.
This well-managed, highly operationalized process shouldn’t end with the migration. A good provider of Timeslips and QuickBooks cloud hosting will have systems for both “on-demand” support, as well as account management: a process to make certain that beyond the day-to-day technical needs, you have a true partner and legal technology advisor.
I can’t stress this enough: A meticulously-managed onboarding will be the difference between a catastrophic failure and glorious success. Everything outlined here is what is required for a seamless, successful transition of Timeslips and QuickBooks (and your firm) to the cloud.
The Economics of Timeslips and QuickBooks in the Cloud
Beyond the functional, reliability, security and mobility benefits of Timeslips and QuickBooks cloud hosting, there’s also the financial case for moving Timeslips and QuickBooks to the cloud.
Running Timeslips and QuickBooks in-house, with on-premise servers is a deceptively expensive proposition. You have to buy servers. You have to buy ancillary IT infrastructure, like backup systems, battery backups, and more. You have to hire a capable IT consultant to not only set up the server, but proactively manage and maintain it.
And these costs are always higher in a given year than you think they will be.
To understand the economics of moving Timeslips and QuickBooks to the cloud, we need to compare a Private Cloud solution to the costs of in-house, on-premise servers and IT.
Watch the Video:
First, analyze all costs incurred each new server cycle (typically 3 to 5 years). That is: buying and implementing server infrastructure, and usually includes:
Backup Hardware & Software
UPS / Battery Backup
Windows Server Licensing
SQL Server Licensing
Desktop / Network Setup
Implementation (IT Consultant)
I recommend that, for each of these items above, you get pricing and record it in a spreadsheet. Add up the total costs (and make sure you’re not missing anything), and you’ll have a sense of the total up-front cost of another cycle of on-premise IT.
It’s important to note that much of these costs are ultimately driven by the software your law firm uses. How many, and how powerful of servers do you need? Do you need multiple, dedicated servers? Will you need VMWare virtualization? This is ultimately determined by the software you use (Timeslips, QuickBooks, and other software).
Next, analyze costs incurred on an ongoing basis. Identify monthly recurring costs, as well as annual costs (renewals, maintenance), and determine your average monthly or annual recurring costs. For most law firms, these often include:
Managed IT Service
User Support / IT Help Desk
Offsite / Remote Backup
Remote Access Solution (VPN, RDS, etc.)
Practice Management Software
Security Maintenance & Renewals
Add up what you do, or will spend on an ongoing basis. This should include fixed monthly costs (such as a Managed IT Provider contract) as well as sporadic, less predictable costs (such as hourly IT support). For the latter, if you’re unsure of a reasonable budget for this amount, I recommend finding the average over the past two three years.
Add all of these up and determine your average monthly IT spend.
On-Premise Costs: Unplanned
Finally, we need to identify and budget for some level of unplanned IT expenses. Proactive IT does significantly reduce the chances and impact of unforeseen IT problems, but over enough time they’re likely to occur nonetheless.
These unplanned costs may take the form of:
Unplanned Server Crashes
Unplanned Network Repair
Unplanned Data Recovery Costs
Software Updates that Prompt Server Upgradges
As you can see–some costs are fixed and predicable, others are wildly unpredictable (but should be budgeted or accounted for in some way.)
Finally, add up your up-front costs, monthly recurring costs and your budget for unplanned/unforeseen costs: And this is your Total Cost of Ownership for on-premise IT.
Compare to Private Cloud
Now compare this Total Cost of Ownership to that of a Private Cloud.
We’ve already demonstrated that a Private Cloud is objectively better than in-house IT, in terms of reliability, security and mobility. But simply comparing the costs of in-house vs. cloud-based IT shows that Private Cloud is also more economical than in-house IT.
Private Cloud costs typically include:
One-time Implementation Fee, typically ranges from $2000 to $6000
All-Inclusive Monthly Fee, often around $105 to $159 / User / Month
Of note is that (with the right Private Cloud provider) these figures are inclusive of all technology that you would otherwise have to buy and maintain. On-premise IT (as we’ve illustrated above) is fraught with hidden and unpredictable costs.
Fully-managed Private Cloud costs are simple, clear and predictable.
Now that you have a sense of how Timeslips and QuickBooks in the cloud work, and how moving Timeslips and QuickBooks to the cloud will benefit your law firm, lets talk about the all-important job of doing your due diligence.
There are a variety of ways your firm could accomplish a transition of Timeslips and QuickBooks to the cloud. Whatever direct your firm goes, it’s important to do your homework.
In recent years, a problem for law firms has become that more and more companies, from small, local IT shops to generalist (non-legal-focused) cloud server providers are throwing their hat into the ring and declaring, “Hey, we do QuickBooks/Timeslips cloud hosting now too!” This is a potential pitfall for law firms. Here’s why.
Law Firm Cloud Hosting Isn’t for Amateurs
Hosting Timeslips and QuickBooks, in particular, requires special configuration and deep software expertise. How to properly engage in due diligence when selecting a Private Cloud provider for your law firm is a subject unto itself, but here are a few key areas to review when evaluating potential hosting companies.
Verify the provider has hosts Timeslips and QuickBooks for at least 25 law firms
Verify the provider will encrypt your data in-transit and at-rest
Verify the provider backs up your data to multiple data centers across the US
Understand what the provider will do if served with a subpoena regarding your data
Validate that your data will only be stored in your country (data sovereignty)
Verify that you will retain exclusive ownership of your data
Ensure the provider's data center is SSAE16 audited and certified
Verify the provider owns the server equipment (not simply reselling Azure or Amazon)
Verify that the provider offers at least 99.99% Uptime
Verify the provider is complaint with all software licensing (Microsoft, VMWare, etc.)
Understand the provider's size (in terms of revenue and employee count)
Once you’ve developed a short list of potential ProLaw hosting providers, do your homework on each company. We recommend:
Obtaining and contacting references
Asking for and reviewing the provider's case studies / success stories
Reading the available Google reviews for the provider.
To see the Google reviews for a Private Cloud provider (or any business), if the company is reputable you can simply perform a Google search for that company, and the reviews will show up in the search results sidebar. For example:
It depends on the cloud provider, the number of users in your firm and the other technology needs of your firm. For many law firms, running Timeslips and QuickBooks in the Cloud costs between $115 and $159 / User / Month. Learn more.
This depends on the provider. Some cloud providers require that a third-party VAR or IT consultant perform all updates. Uptime Practice, by contrast, manages all software Timeslips, QuickBooks, and other updates and maintenance for you.
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.”
This depends on the cloud provider. In the case of Uptime Practice, your Private Cloud will work with virtually all printers, scanners and peripherals. Your local and network printers will appear and work within your virtual desktop just as they do on your local computer.
Ready to Move Timeslips and QuickBooks to the Cloud?
At Uptime Legal, we host Timeslips, QuickBooksand other legal software for hundreds of law firms across North America.
Get in touch with our team to learn more about Timeslips and QuickBooks in the cloud for your law firm.
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. Under Dennis’ leadership, Uptime Legal has grown organically and through acquisitions to become the nationally-recognized legal technology company it is today. Uptime Legal continues to innovate and disrupt the legal technology space, and has been named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private for the past six consecutive years. Dennis was also an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist.
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