Into the cloud: Internet computing is much touted as the saviour of SME law firms - but is it?

Adam Makepeace By Adam Makepeace
from Tuckers Solicitors

Those magnificent men in their marketing machines have been going up diddly up up recently in their effusive praise of the 'cloud'. I have a big hot air balloon in my mind’s eye when I hear that, so imagine my horror to discover that in fact:

"The cloud is like an AK-47 - a cheap, effective weapon that is widely available to any small group which allows them to compete against the world’s most sophisticated organisation on an equal or better footing." (in a post by Chris Weitz, Deloitte's director of technology, strategy and architecture)

Down come those magnificent marketing men, with my balloon now riddled with bullet holes. Fortunately, clarity appears to be at hand at Salesforce, the big customer relationship company - surely their '10 benefits of cloud computing' is going to be my puncture repair kit to get me airborne once again... or maybe not.

Some of the 10 benefits seem a little over-stated in this document, to me. Duplicated concepts abound - "increased collaboration", "document control", "work from anywhere" and so on. As for "competitiveness", this is hardly the preserve of cloud computing and smacks of having to strain a bit too hard to get the perceived benefits into double figures.

The claimed environmental benefits are nice: "30% less energy consumption and carbon emissions than using on-site servers", so Salesforce say. But where margins are getting tighter and tighter, this is a bauble rather than a driver for change.

I am not sure that I understand the idea of "security" as a cloud benefit, either. Supported by the statistic that "800,000 laptops are lost each year in airports alone", I fail to see how the cloud makes my business more secure in the circumstances that some numpty lawyer leaves their laptop on a plane, train or automobile.

Is there anything left for cloud? The more numerate will have realised that there are, of course, four alleged benefits of the cloud left.

The upsides of the cloud

Pleasingly, for someone like myself who is seeking a delivery platform for a scalable back office service to multiple office sites/remote working in police stations and courts, there are seemingly some real benefits to donning the fur-lined leather jacket/hat combo (accessorised with a jaunty pair of goggles and breaking out the helium).

Our strategic plans at Tuckers would be in tatters if we actually had to pay for anything, because we don’t have the resources to commit to significant capital expenditure. Being able to budget in a straight line for the hardware infrastructure required is a game changer.

This is also true of maintaining the latest versions of key software applications. Spiky investments in upgrading Microsoft Office, Outlook and security software are smoothed out - and, when trying to offer software as a service, you can do so on the basis that everything is the most up-to-date available.

Flexibility/scalability has a twin benefit. It works on a daily level, in terms of opening up the bandwidth if it happens to be a day where everyone is downloading iTunes content (in material breach of the internet policy), and it gives a flexible pricing model around licensing and immediate availability of increased capacity if the merger with that 50 user firm comes off.

Last, but not least, our disaster recovery policy is a lot easier to write when you can say that you have outsourced the problem to your hosted provider.

But it seems to me that they have missed a trick: with tensions involving nuclear powers in the Middle East rising, a tangible benefit of having a contractual relationship with someone who owns a 'tier 4 bunker' (whatever that is) is something that I am factoring into my thinking. Certainly both my family and my servers are likely to be safer in there than they are in the basement of our Manchester office.

In conclusion, we at Tuckers will be going up diddly up up into the cloud... 

Have you looked into putting your firm's IT in the cloud? Or would you rather keep complete control? Tell us in the comments below

 

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Hi Adam, Indeed, 'The Cloud' as with anything else has received more than its share of hype from the marketing men. However, there are some real benefits to be realised with respect to 'Access Anywhere' and 'Security'. Obviously, different vendors have their own features and limitations but generically; Access Anywhere - and potentially anytime. You can access your applications and data from any device with Web access, so you could work from the office on your PC and then go home or to a client or from a laptop (in an airport before you lose it say) and carry on where you left off. You are not tied to your personal PC. So should you be unable to gain access to your office(gas leak, fire, Tube strike, Flood etc), you could allow staff to go home and work until access to the building was once again available. Obviously other supporting processes would be needed. Security - The crux of this is that the applications and data do not reside on the laptop/PC but are hosted in the cloud. The laptop is just an access device. Obviously, best practice in terms of the use of passwords and encryption for the device should be employed, otherwise the sticker on the bottom of the laptop with username and password can be used by the finder/thief to gain access to your apps and data in the cloud. So it cannot prevent the patently stupid but if a laptop is lost no confidential data will be lost with it if it is all in the cloud. I have been developing desktop as a service DaaS solutions for a major vendor for the last four years and it is often these two features on which we have sold the service and solved tricky access and security problems for government and defence clients. Hope this helps. Regards James Farrington-Rogers IT Consultant
things really have moved on, and DaaS is the solution to the cloud / BYOD / remote working security concerns, as well as solving expensiveness that has plagued Citrix style virtual desktops

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