The Cloud For Law Firms
Law firms throughout the U.S. are rapidly moving to the Cloud. That’s because it provides many benefits when used correctly. The key to doing this is to find an IT service company that knows what’s required by your Bar Association when it comes to using cloud services. For example, did you know that using certain free cloud services may be prohibited?
There are key benefits to using the right cloud services. The ABA says that “lawyers and law firms see the Cloud as a fast and scalable way to use advanced legal technology tools without the need for a substantial upfront capital investment in hardware, software, and support services.”
What Are The Main Benefits Of Cloud Computing For Law Firms?
Low Cost: Most cloud computing services can be obtained at a low cost. Law firms are discovering that it’s less expensive to procure these services from a cloud provider than it is to run and maintain applications on their own server.
As more software and IT solutions move to the Cloud, the opportunity for cost savings increases. You can avoid paying upfront fees for software licensing or hardware purchases, and you can make use of per-user subscriptions and hosted solutions.
Cloud computing also helps smaller firms compete with their larger counterparts by offering them access to the same enterprise-grade technology at an affordable price.
Maintenance Is Included: Cloud providers typically include maintenance in their services. As an attorney, you and your staff are too busy to have to worry about taking care of software patches and updates. Your cloud provider will automatically install these for you.
Accessibility: As a busy attorney, you’re always on the move. Cloud computing services are accessible from any computer with an internet connection, regardless of your location. When you want to work from home, or when traveling, you can access your files and IT resources securely and easily.
The modern workforce is more tech-savvy than ever, and employees expect to have access to up-to-date files and resources both in and out of the office. They require continuous access to their files to be effective and productive.
Scalability: Cloud computing services are provided on demand. When you purchase cloud services, you can easily add storage, computing capacity and new features. You can also easily delete services you no longer need.
You won’t waste money on IT solutions that “sit unused on the shelf.” The ability to scale Cloud solutions up or down to fit the current requirements of your team means you don’t have to waste money on resources you don’t need or have to spend large sums of money to bring more resources onboard. Because cloud solutions are billed on a per-user basis, you only pay for what you require.
Data Security: Most cloud providers employ stringent security measures. Plus, their staff is trained and experienced in the implementation of security measures that align with current security risks.
The Cloud provides an additional barrier between hackers and your data by storing your files in an offsite location. Even better, your files are encrypted and therefore only accessible to designated members of your team. And, with Mobile Device Management, if a device is lost or stolen, the data stored on it can be removed remotely.
Data Backup & Disaster Recovery: The redundancy of cloud backups is essential for law firms. If you save your data on local devices, you risk losing it if your office is flooded or if a fire occurs.
Your data will always be safe and recoverable when it’s in the Cloud.
An enterprise-grade cloud backup solution is the best way to store confidential information. Cloud solutions like virtualization allow you to recover your entire IT infrastructure quickly, applications and all.
Servers, desktops, files, and apps are all stored in a secure offsite data center, which is essential for effective business continuity and disaster recovery. Whether you’re faced with something as minor as a brief power outage or as significant as a weeks-long disruption, your IT assets will still be available to you 24/7.
Enhanced Collaboration: Hosted Cloud solutions let authorized team members access and edit documents in real-time. This is invaluable when you have attorneys and paralegals working on a document together but from separate locations.
Document Control: Emailing files back and forth gets confusing and makes it next to impossible to keep track of which version of a document is the correct one. The Cloud prevents this. When a document is stored and edited on the Cloud, there’s only one version of that document. This guarantees that your team is always working with the right information.
What About Ethical Rules and The Cloud?
This can sometimes make it challenging to decide what cloud services you should use. Ethical rules vary from state to state. But they all follow the same basic principles.
Confidentiality: When using cloud services, you must ensure the privacy and integrity of your data.
Third Parties: If you assign responsibilities to a cloud service provider, you must verify that they abide by the same confidentiality and professional conduct that you do. Ethics/Rules typically contain a duty for you to supervise third parties in this respect.
Communication: Do you have your clients’ permission to store and transmit their data via a third-party cloud? Ethics/Rules of Professional Conduct typically contain clauses stating that you must communicate with clients and seek their consent regarding the transmission and storage of their data.
Safeguarding Data: Does your cloud service guarantee the safeguarding of your clients’ confidential information and documents? It’s up to you to make sure they do.
How Can We Maintain Client Confidentiality In The Cloud?
Using cloud computing provides many benefits, so you shouldn’t let these concerns keep you from using cloud services. However, you need the assurance that your data and your clients’ will remain secure.
Your IT service company is the best resource for this. They understand the risks and benefits of different cloud services and the types that would best serve your needs.
They can work with you to review proposed contracts to ensure:
- Confidentiality, security and protection from unauthorized access or modifications.
- You’ll have a robust backup and disaster recovery plan.
- The cloud service provides alternative access to data in the event of a service outage.
- The cloud service will inform you about any security breaches that may affect your data.
- You’ll be compensated if actions by the cloud provider result in a security breach.
- The contract acknowledges that your law firm owns your data.
What Should We Look For In A Cloud-Based Solution?
Some of the free storage solutions like Dropbox, Google, and others won’t meet your client confidentiality requirements, so you shouldn’t use them. Unfortunately, some attorneys still do, and as a result, they’re putting their client data and their law firms at risk.
Check the End-User License Agreement (EULA) to ensure that you’re not storing confidential information in a solution that’s not secure. And look for a cloud-based solution with law firms in mind. One that:
- Uses at least 256-bit AES encryption to secure your files.
- Provides In-transit encryption, so your files remain encrypted while being uploaded to the Internet or downloaded to your computers.
- Uses Zero-knowledge encryption where only you have access to your encryption keys. Your cloud provider shouldn’t have access to them, and the keys shouldn’t be stored on their servers.
- Is HIPAA-compliant if you work for doctors or healthcare organizations.
- Integrates with Microsoft Office so you can save your documents directly to the Cloud.
- Provides indexing and search capabilities where you can find names and content in every document, as well as emails.
- Has the ability to compare older documents to newer versions.
- Lets your employees check-in and check-out of documents to ensure only those authorized can access documents, that you know when they do, and that they are working on the most updated versions.
- Has a system for document tagging and profiling.
- Provides notifications when documents are updated or edited.
- Offers document organization and storage that can be arranged by matter.
- Has easy-to-use email management and search options.
- Comes with an interface that’s intuitive and easy for your staff to use.
- Is compatible with the other systems you use.
- Provides customer service that’s readily available.
As cloud technology has continued to evolve and gain traction in highly regulated industries and fields, the advantages available to law firms have increased as well. And when you think about how your firm operates, cloud computing makes a lot of sense.
Your IT service provider is your go-to expert when it comes to using the Cloud. They will offer recommendations for reliable and secure cloud computing solutions for law firms like yours.
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