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.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of cloud-based software over premise-based software is not the cost savings (although that’s where most attorneys would look first), it’s the mobility that the cloud offers lawyers and staff. Maybe the biggest problem with premised-based software is that it’s attached, in very real and present ways, to hardware of some kind, be it a server or a laptop or a tablet. That means that for a lawyer or a lawyer’s staff person to access the software, they need a particular device or a way to access a particular device.
Even if that doesn’t mean strapping your office server to your back and walking it home, it does mean setting up access to a server or a specific device, at an additional cost, both in terms of money (you have to pay for something) and in terms of efficiency (you have to take another step to get to what you need). And, that’s just not necessary in a modern software environment. Cloud services are device-agnostic, in the sense that you are not tied to accessing cloud software via a specific device. All you need is a secure internet connection. That means it’s much easier to access your law firm files in, say, Saint Bart’s . . .
Cloud software also offers massive flexibility in terms of staffing up or down. Most law firms experience ebbs and flows in revenue, and business exigencies change over time, which means that law firm staff turnover can be high. In a small firm, you may have 3 staff people one month, and 5 the next. Onboarding or offloading staff in an on-premise environment is typically a pain. The new staff person needs to be provisioned a device, with software downloaded to it, or accessible by it; and, if you’re a busy lawyer, you’re using an IT person to manage that arrangement, at an additional cost to you.
With cloud software, all you need to set up is a secure internet connection. Your staff person can even use their own devices, because everything is accessed (and password-protected) via the web. This means that cloud-based software is far better at adapting to your changing business needs than is premise-based software.
In the third part of this series, we’ll address what a switch from on-premise to cloud-based software really entails.
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.