Businesses and companies across the globe are quickly moving to cloud computing, and law offices are no exception. Cloud storage has had a breakout year in the mainstream with Google, Microsoft and Apple announcing their own respective cloud services and independent storage companies widening their suite of offerings to include a hefty offering of cloud services. While cloud computing is definitely an advancement in the way business is done today, law offices and the professionals who work there need to be cautious about what they use the cloud for because of potential privacy concerns. The following list will help firms decide which route is the best for them.
What Law Offices Should Use the Cloud For
- Storage. The easiest gateway to the cloud is setting up a storage system that provides access to files that may need to be seen by multiple parties or accessed at different points by different people.
- File sharing. Having storage on a remote server is nice, but being able to send large files to others without transferring physical drives (USB, SD cards) is one of the defining benefits of the cloud. Email limits file sizes and, depending on what type of cloud storage you choose, it may be difficult to send a 1GB file to a partner. To address this, there are cloud based email programs that specialize in transmitting massive files over a cloud network to anyone you want. These can be particularly helpful for sharing. Because of privacy, finding one that has security measures already built into the system is particularly important.
- Management and archiving. These play an especially important role in law and, with the amount of social conversations that can happen in and around a case, it helps to have a way to manage those aspects of your online presence. ThinkUp is a Web app that analyzes Twitter interactions, discovers what Facebook is publishing about you (or someone else) and gives informative stats about these interactions. Backing up all those interactions and conversations to the cloud can come in handy if you need to reference them later.
What cloud computing can replace:
- FTP. Traditional file transfer protocol systems are wholly unreliable in terms of security. They require a user name and password (easily hacked, or accessed by the wrong person) as their sole means of security. Secure FTP methods use encryption to protect data, and can only be accessed by users who have access.
- Private Servers. Instead of hosting everything on local servers, cloud hosting allows servers to be spread out among many different locations. Not only does this mean less overhead for the office, it also means that any server maintenance will be done by an external team instead of internal IT workers, freeing them up for regular day-to-day tasks.
- Backup Services. Instead of relying on a file cabinet for your archiving system, your office can rely on the backups built into the cloud. Many cloud services won’t tell you exactly how many duplications of information they have, but you can rest assured that, with reputable companies, it’s enough that you shouldn’t have to stay awake at night worrying about your data.
While law offices may not completely digitize and move permanently into the cloud, cloud computing does offer some benefits that can be used uniquely by law firms to streamline operations, increase productivity and speed up the process of litigating on the back end. It won’t solve all the problems inherent to running a law firm, but the cloud is a step in an interesting new direction for data management that those in our field would be silly to let slip through their fingers.