Let’s start with a brief primer: ‘On-premise’ software is software that is downloaded to and manually updated at settled intervals on a specific device. Cloud software is accessible via the internet, and is continually updated — in other words, the latest version is always available. On-premise software is usually purchased once, and users have the option to pay for updates.
Cloud software is usually purchased on a continuing subscription basis (monthly or annually, at a discount). For small firms, on-premise software is usually available on an individual user’s device or through a physical office server. Cloud software is hosted on a server, too — but, the physical server is managed and maintained by the vendor, not the law firm.
The thesis of this series of blog posts is that cloud software is better than on-premise software — which, in many law firms is called ‘legacy software’, since it’s the software that law firms have traditionally used. Across this series of blog posts, I’ll cover three specific reasons why cloud software beats on-premise software, every time.
In the majority of cases, a law firm getting into cloud services for the first time will move from a ‘legacy system’ (the prior system, often an on-premise software) into the new system (usually a cloud-based tool), and the major question in that move revolves around what to do with all that existing, stored data? Attorneys are glorified pack rats in many ways. They love to hang onto things, just in case. It’s a professional hazard, wrought by lawyers being taught, over and over again, that risk avoidance is the main consideration of any interaction. It’s been hammered into their heads. So, even while it’s possible to just leave the old data in the old system, and let it age out, most law firms will want to port. The good news is that modern cloud tools make this a relatively painless process.
Many cloud providers have mapped the data transition model from old system X to their system, which means the path is well-worn, and takes less time than if there were a significant learning curve. Upload and download of basic information can be achieved via Excel or CSV file. Many providers offer document upload and download and integration features. Oftentimes, the issue lies with the premise-based software provider, who may not have developed offloading tools, or who will seek to hold data hostage, in a last-ditch attempt to retain a customer it would probably lose at some point anyway.
And, in point of fact, because it’s easier to get into a cloud-based software, it’s easier to get out of cloud-based software. Pathways into the system can easily be converted to pathways out of the system. While it was a real concern previously that software vendors would refuse to release your data, or be incapable of doing so, most cloud-based vendors, while allergic to customer churn, recognize that it is a reality of modern business, and that it is in their best interests not to stand in the way of a move, especially because they will likely be the beneficiaries of another move, somewhere down the line.
With the majority of modern cloud software vendors, both getting into and getting out of their systems is a fairly straightforward and transparent procedure. But, in the end, you’re probably not getting out with the intention of making a return to the on-premise world. Once you go cloud, you never go back.
About the author
Jared D. Correia, Esq. is the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law firm business management consulting and technology services for solo and small law firms. Red Cave also works with legal institutions and legal-facing corporations to develop programming and content. A former practicing attorney, Jared has been advising lawyers and law firms for over a decade. He is a regular presenter at local, regional and national events, including ABA TECHSHOW. He regularly contributes to legal publications, including his column, ‘Managing,’ for Attorney at Work, and his ‘Law Practice Confidential’ advice column for Lawyerist. Jared is the author of the American Bar Association publication ‘Twitter in One Hour for Lawyers’. He is the host of the Legal Toolkit podcast on Legal Talk Network. Jared also teaches for Concord Law School, Suffolk University Law School and Solo Practice University. He loves James Taylor, but respects Ron Swanson; and, he tries to sneak Rolos when no one is looking.