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Cloud computing has been a hot topic for discussion in legal IT for several years. It features prominently at major events and in publications. Everyone has something to say. As cloud services have matured and become more reliable and affordable, big providers such as Google and Amazon have refined their public cloud offerings to make them fit businesses – and some law firms – clients and legal specific suppliers have honed their services to the sector.
We at easySERVICE Data Solutions wanted to find out from our readership what was really happening at grass roots level and build an accurate and current picture of cloud computing in the legal sector globally.
Who is keen on cloud computing?
Smaller firms were keenest and support declined in inverse proportion to firm size. This is not surprising as it makes business sense for a large firm to invest significantly in IT infrastructure. The capital outlay involved is tax deductible and the number of users justifies employing in-house technologists. For small and medium-sized firms – particularly start-ups – cloud services level the playing field, giving them the ability to access to the resources that previously were available only to their larger, well-established counterparts.
Smaller firms and start-ups are less able to afford to invest in IT infrastructure and managed services via the cloud offer easy scalability and flexible payment options. It means they do not need an IT department, although they will still need to arrange on-site support. This is reflected in the fact that over 50% of firms with fewer than 100 fee earners were in favor.
There was a clear difference of opinion according to role type, with only 39% of CIO/CTO respondents in favor, compared with 57% of external consultants. Even fewer of those with general IT roles were in favor (32%), perhaps in a self-interested way – outsourcing key applications allows firms to reduce the size of their IT department.
IT managers are also aware that different skills are required to manage outsourcing contracts and relationships than to deliver in-house services and resources. Outsourcing services to the cloud does not mean dispensing with on-site support and depends on powerful and reliable internet connectivity. Furthermore, transition to an entirely different system can be challenging in various ways and IT departments are on the front line dealing with user and back-end issues.
Users, on the other hand, were relatively enthusiastic, with 47% of lawyers in favor and 40% against. These findings are an indication of the conflict from the user point of view of convenient mobile and remote access from any device connected to the internet and a generally conservative user group’s understandable concern over perceived and actual security and other risks. Context is important in any statistical analysis and it might also be worth considering, however, that lawyers responding to a Legal IT Professionals survey on cloud computing are likely to be more tech savvy than average users in many law firms.
We were looking to discover and understand whether and how perceptions of cloud computing may have shifted during the past 12 months. We found a positive trend across the board with only a small minority of respondents feeling more negative about cloud computing. Overall, 52% of respondents are more positive, while only 10% are more negative.
The latter may be due to having or hearing about a bad experience of cloud computing. One would anticipate this finding, given the growth in the supplier market and the progress that has been made towards more reliable and affordable cloud services. Market conditions, including the global downturn and the liberalization of the UK legal services market, are putting pressure on fees, so firms are looking to preserve their profit margins.
The biggest change in attitude is in the mid-market with 75% of respondents from firms of 500 to 1,000 fee earners feeling more positive. This reflects the fact that smaller firms have tended to be early adopters and now that legal specific and other cloud suppliers have overcome initial teething problems, the mid-markets are becoming more interested in cloud computing as a viable alternative to point solutions.
Business agility is a critical success factor and cloud computing supports this. Flexible payment models and scalability are particularly valuable in an unpredictable market. The popularity of BYOD (bring your own device) strategies and the widespread use of tablets, which rely on connectivity, may also be a significant factor as users access the internet from multiple devices and platforms.
This does not mean that they are immediately shifting their entire infrastructure to the cloud; it may be that they are realizing that some externally facing services, notably email and client extranets are accessed online in any case, so transferring them to the cloud does not increase the risk to the organization.
IT organizations that manage high levels of complexity in their IT infrastructures require a sophisticated set of capabilities to diagnose and prevent application slowdowns caused by the infrastructure, especially during consolidation or migration. Complexity is driven by the heterogeneity of storage subsystems, host bus adapters (HBAs), operating systems, fabric switches, virtualization platforms, multi-site replication, storage virtualization, and the continued 50% annual growth of data and bandwidth utilization.
The larger the server and SAN (Storage Area Network) infrastructure, the greater the risk of problems. Data center consolidation, accelerated use of server and storage virtualization, flat budgets, and the migration to a cloud computing environment further complicate the infrastructure manager’s ability to track and optimize performance and availability.
We focus on building and designing the most appropriate infrastructure to meet the unique needs and characteristics of your individual business. Your data is too precious not to be protected by the best, most affordable and highly efficient data storage solution in the industry. Our solution is suitable for Modern Data Protection – Built for Virtualization and Private cloud solutions, without a big price tag.
If you’d like to discuss any of the above best practices or lessons learned with us or to learn more about how we are partnering with companies just like yours to ensure the availability of mission-critical applications, please contact us at (855) US STELLAR.