Proctor : May 2015
Practice management Greg Spinda and Teresa Adornato share the knowledge they gained when they considered a move to cloud computing. • the potential for job flexibility and staff mobility • for small firms in particular, a cloud provider is likely to have more sophisticated and reliable hardware and security measures. Risks of cloud computing 1. Security of data – where is your data stored, how secure is it, is it backed up? 2. Risks of breaches of confidentiality – given the data is stored by someone else, somewhere off-site from the practice. 3. How does security and confidentiality of data management affect solicitors’ professional obligations? Does professional indemnity insurance cover circumstances in which there are breaches of client data? 4. Damage to the cloud company’s infrastructure, whether physical or via computer virus, and the ability to access your firm’s data. Costs of cloud computing Going to the cloud most commonly involves paying a monthly amount to the provider based on the number of users who will be accessing the services. This amount will vary depending on the firm’s requirements, for example, whether only data storage, using software applications in the cloud, or other services the firm may need. A reliable internet connection is essential, therefore, you may need to consider your current internet plan. If not moving all services to the cloud, then you may still need to invest in a server. Practical considerations when moving to the cloud Moving to the cloud may not be a move for all firms. Some considerations in the decision-making process may be: 1. Talk to your current IT support and engage with them about their views (bearing in mind that moving to the cloud is likely to diminish their role or make them redundant). 2. How old is your current server and do you really need to make a decision now? If you have recently invested in a new server, it may be worth delaying a move and utilising any tax and depreciation benefits first. back to contents 3. What are you trying to achieve? Do you want to reduce IT costs or are the ancillary benefits of cloud computing more important? 4. Talk to your key software providers about cloud capability, for example, your practice management software provider, digital dictation provider. 5. What services do you want to take to the cloud? 6. Is there anything you want to keep on-site on a server, for example, financial data or highly sensitive data? 7. Do you have any obligations to your clients around data management? For example, some tender processes for client work may have particular requirements around data storage and security. 8. Is your current internet connection appropriate for working in the cloud? 9. Meet with a cloud provider or two. These are great opportunities to get a better understanding of your options and costs. Be upfront with them, you are seeking their views and a quote to begin with. 10. Sit down and ‘do the maths’, compare the monthly and total annual cost of the cloud with costs associated with a server, such as acquiring a new server, possible new desktops for staff, IT set-up, likely IT maintenance (including budgeting for server error) and updated software (Microsoft Office, security and anti-virus). When meeting with a cloud provider, ensure you have a list of questions prepared and do not hesitate in requiring answers to all your questions. Key questions to consider may be: 1. Do you have your own data centres? If so, where are they located? 2. If not, where do you keep the data and who owns/manages the data centres? Where are they located? 3. Where are the back-up data centres located? 4. What security and anti-virus systems are in place? 5. Do I own my data? 6. What happens if your primary data centre goes down? Will I notice any disruption in my service? This article appears courtesy of the QLS Practice Development and Management Committee. Greg Spinda is a partner at Carew Lawyers, a plaintiff personal injury practice, and Teresa Adornato is managing director of Paul Loane Solicitors, a firm practising in Biloela & Yeppoon. Both are members of the committee. Image credit: ©iStock.com/skegbydave PROCTOR | May 2015 27 7. Will I have a dedicated account manager who understands my business and is my direct point of call? 8. Will I have 24-hour support, every day of the year? 9. When are software updates loaded? Will I be notified and when? 10. What is the name and role of any other provider? 11. How will you migrate my data to the cloud? How long will it take and can I still use my data in the meantime? 12. Can I put in place restrictions on access to certain data for my staff? 13. How quickly can you set up a new staff member as a new user? Will this cost extra? 14. Do you charge extra for practice-specific software to be upgraded? 15. What services are included in your price? What are the extras that I may incur? 16. What is my exit strategy? How can I access my data or migrate it somewhere else in the future? So, where to next? We have to admit, that both of us decided not to move to the cloud after weighing up considerations of costs and benefits. The cost involved in moving to the cloud was greater over a three to four-year period than a new server, which is tax deductible. Also, neither of us needed regular updates of the latest software. However, we suspect that in coming years more firms will be moving to the cloud and costs should be more competitive. The Queensland Law Society Technology and Intellectual Property Law Committee is developing a cloud-computing practice resource for QLS members. We look forward to seeing this, as we feel it will be an essential tool for all firms in coming years, and encourage you to keep an eye out for it.