by Stephanie Watson
Published on 19 July 2012
Due to the rise in cloud app proliferation it's only natural that software makers want to offer legal services cloud-based applications.
It's also natural that lawyers want to level the playing field and take advantage of enterprise level law practice management cloud-based applications for their business needs. There are some very interesting and promising cloud-based legal applications for legal professionals to try.
However, there could be some pitfalls while trying to partake of the many advantages cloud-based software offers its users. But, if you know what to look for, you'll be ahead of the pack. Ask these questions each time you evaluate a new cloud-based solution and you won't be sorry.
The only way to know for sure whether or not the software you choose is secure is to ask them. You need to know what type of encryption the software uses. But in general if they use secure socket layer (SSL) protocol what this means is that everything you type is encrypted so that even over public networks including public Wi-Fi connections your communications aren't open to being read by others. We all make secure purchases online every day, and do banking online and it's the same type of system. The point is, ask about security, and then check up to ensure that they meet the security standards that you need. Learn the terminology, for instance, Tier 4 is the term used for the most stringent security practices for a data center.
While most people agree that cloud-computing saves money, especially for small firms, figure out the real cost to be able to run this same type of software from your office. Don't forget the cost of server space, office space, IT, and anything else related. Most small firms find that it would take them 10 years to surpass the savings if they did it themselves. Since technology is changing at an ever faster rate I suspect that even this figure is misleading. When you rent the software you get lifetime upgrades, support, and more.
There is no real point in choosing a software if it's not user friendly. What defines user friendliness is often in the eye of the beholder. Try out the software before you pay for it. Take all the free training and demos they provide so that you can be sure it's the right software for you. Even if the cost of entry is less than traditional on-site software, the time saved doing a complete study and research of the offerings will be well worth it.
If the company doesn't offer continuous uninterrupted upgrades you may not be very satisfied with the service. No one can promise 100 percent uptime, but it should be approaching 100 percent uptime. Don't just trust the company to tell you what their uptime is, ask for proof. Ask if you can speak to other users, read reviews, and of course, try the product yourself.
Each data center needs to have some sort of disaster protocol. Whether it's a natural or man-made disaster, there needs to be a plan. Find out what it is. Also ask them what would happen if they went out of business. How accessible is your data? Can you download it into a unusable format to upload into another system? What kind of notice will you be given if this should happen? Don't let that scare you, many times natively installed software companies go out of business too, in spite of the money made software is often discontinued. It's less likely to happen with a profitable cloud based model since they make money on a monthly recurring basis that will drop to zero over night if going out of business.