Local vs. Cloud vs. Hosted
When it comes to law office software, firms should weigh the benefits of all the features and functions as they relate to their specific workflow. However, an often overlooked aspect of purchasing new software is choosing the right network to run that software. The choice is paramount in providing an optimal experience for the firm’s today and into the future. Just as firms would research features like document management, time entry and mobility, the network that’s right for you must be considered carefully. To help make an informed decision, below is an outline of the three most widely used network configurations in use today.
The most common and trusted method for providing software access has always been through a local or onsite network. Generally, this type of environment requires firms to invest in hardware, personnel and a maintenance plan that guarantees the firm’s software and data is always available. In order to do this, firms must continuously invest in hardware technology to stay competitive. Additionally, highly trained professionals are a must in order to keep these systems running at peak performance. Of course, by utilizing a local system the firm will benefit from more control over the software environment, a higher level of security and a lower cost of ownership over the long run.
Another popular option today is the cloud or rather a SaaS (software-as-a-service) solution. This type of solution takes the firm out of the technology business and allows them to refocus their energies on their legal business. The cloud provides an optimal environment for running the firm’s system along with other industry standard productivity tools like Microsoft Office, and Adobe Acrobat; thus replicating the onsite experience.
In many instances, since software vendors are also the cloud vendor, the environment is optimized to run their specific product. This allows the firm to eliminate the need for server hardware, license management, and highly specialized IT personnel. In many instances, firms may outsource their IT departments thereby saving further on their personnel costs. This results in lower technical issues and better software performance with a lower cost of ownership.
Hosted/3rd Party Network
Lastly, once thought to be a common approach to having the best of both an onsite and remote environment was the hosted solution. In a hosting setup, many times a firm would own or lease the hardware from a hosting provider and pay for the management services associated with running the system from the hosting provider’s location. Often considered a good first step toward a cloud solution, it unfortunately hasn’t lived up to the expectations. While most firms would outsource many of the IT duties to the hosted services provider, they still had to have skilled IT personnel in-house to manage users, integrations, and other various hosted related duties. Even as the hosted solution offered certain levels of convenience, these vendors are typically ill trained and ill equipped to offer optimal environments for the different legal applications on the market. This results in limited control, poor application performance and increased costs for the firms.
For a law firm, the network their software runs on is just as important as the software they run. Taking the time to research the proper network for their firm is essential to providing a solid service to client. For this reason, adequate care and research must be performed in order to insure that the firm, its software and its network is ready for the challenges ahead.