Many law firm leaders are still getting their heads around the cloud – let alone getting their firms in it. Go to any conference, pick up any magazine, or browse any business management website, and, whether you like it or not, you’ll likely enter the cloud debate. But according to Nick Hayne, professional services manager at IT services provider Quiss Technology, although the debate may be slightly one-sided, the solution isn’t. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s not a ‘cloud or nothing’ situation. Yes, the cloud is very much on the agenda for law firms and business as a whole, but clearly those who are reluctant are reluctant for a reason. It just might not be right for their business right now – and there are other options.” He says it’s becoming important among all the cloud-based noise for practice leaders to understand that using a combination of both cloud and on-premise solutions can sometimes be the best for the business. “Everybody has a different take on whether the cloud is best for them, and there’s an element of confusion – usually from a lack of trust – in what the cloud, or software as a service, can do for a legal business.” Hayne gives the example of a chief executive at a large law firm whose unequivocal response to the question “Will your firm’s information ever go offsite?” left no doubts – it simply wasn’t an option in this chief executive’s mind, says Hayne. “Now that’s an interesting perspective for a leader of a firm with almost 1,000 users.” Fear of the unknown isn’t unusual, says Hayne, particularly for the legal market. “Many we’ve spoken to are afraid of the concept of hosting, not realising what it could potentially mean for them. Of course, it’s got to be right for them and for their clients from a legal perspective. Firms are more aware of that than anybody.” To those practice managers resolutely against cloud-hosted solutions, Hayne would first say: “You don’t have to put everything into the cloud – there are several other options. A hybrid solution could be ideal for certain businesses where hosted cloud services can still intermingle with the on-premise solution. Even if they feel uncomfortable about it, firms without an internal IT resource feel that the cloud option relieves them of the day-to-day management of their systems. Managed service providers such as Quiss can provide that resource, therefore providing the practice with a choice.”

In a competitive market, better use and understanding of technology will bring huge benefits and efficiencies, says Hayne, bringing them closer to the versatility that modern firms require. Hosted solutions can free up management and IT teams to focus on core activities and new projects.

“A typical example of this is an East of England based firm that had a fairly large IT team. That firm decided to outsource some of their services to us: helpdesk, desktop support and provision of an onsite resource when required. This has allowed that firm to reengineer its IT resource and look strategically at projects that will move the firm forward. Projects that may have had to take a back seat to day-to-day operational issues can now be planned and executed in a timely manner. That’s enabled the business to put invaluable resources to far better use.”

That firm now has its infrastructure hosted in Quiss’s data centre, meaning it has to focus even less on day-to-day operational aspects and more on getting the most out of its technology investments.

Working seamlessly across devices and locations anytime can be a significant boon to efficiency and client service. “Most law firms we engage with need to be able to work from any device, not only the one that’s on their desk. A hosted infrastructure from Quiss fits that anytime, anywhere connectivity while also being fully compliant with ISO27001:2013.” For other firms that only want their hardware and data onsite, outsourcing the management function to Quiss can complement the work of existing teams, he says.

Regulations around offsite hosting are becoming more stringent, so firms must know where their data is, says Hayne – and carry out their own due diligence on the chosen provider. “If you host with us, for example, your data will all be secure in our Midlands-based data centre. The bricks and mortar belong entirely to us, as well as the actual resource, access, security and technology behind our hosted infrastructure. In addition, all support provided by us is delivered by our own staff.”

Firms should be looking for solutions that can ensure accessibility to the firm’s data, he says, whether it’s in the cloud or indeed on-premise. “When considering change, some firms tend to have an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ attitude.” But engaging a reputable, ISO27001:2013-compliant partner that’s expert in both cloud and onsite managed services, he says, to assist in properly planning and advising on what’s right for your business is the most important exercise before making change happen. “One design doesn’t fit all, so be aware of the options.”

ANYTIME, ANYWHERE
Thinking outwardly about the future of your business is where hosted solutions can make the difference, says Hayne. “From a hosting perspective, the end-user can log in from anywhere in the world with an internet connection, on any device, safe in the knowledge that their data is secure.”

In more extreme cases, he says, hosting boosts firms’ resilience against more disastrous circumstances. “Hosting is very effective in service replication, helping people get their businesses up and running after an outage.” Hayne gives the example of a recent gas explosion in London which affected many businesses. In that scenario, he says, firms with a hosted solution could relocate their staff and continue operations relatively unscathed.

“We understand that firms need to be flexible – and to be able to go into the cloud, stay on premise or get a mixture of the two, makes their businesses more versatile, secure and allows them to take the direction that they have planned for.”

Just as firms within the legal sector have responded to client demand and market pressures, so have the firms providing the legal IT services, says Hayne. “Providers of legal software applications and services are very aware that there is still a demand for the more traditional on-premise solution and although cloud-based solutions are very soon going to be the norm, these opportunities cannot afford to be ignored. “A lot of law firms are still run by lawyers who, in many cases, by their own admission are not born businessmen. Firms are engaging chief executives, practice directors, COOs – people who generally don’t have a legal background. These people are brought in to turn these firms into professionally run businesses. That’s where smaller firms may lose out. They may suffer from a lack of understanding where new technologies are concerned and there’s certainly the issue of having the time to spend on investigating and
planning. They may not see the opportunity in structuring their businesses differently and may lose pace because of it.”

But firms don’t need to be put in the position of ‘cloud or quits’, says Hayne. “It may well be the way forward, but if it’s not quite right for your business yet, then there are other options. We will work with you to determine the best option for your firm,” he says. “Whether firms select cloud or on-premise, we provide a range of IT support options – including comprehensive end-user training, business continuity, disaster recovery planning, consultancy and project management – to complement existing IT teams or provide the resource for those firms that don’t have one.”

The market is moving forward. And as the cloud debate rages on, firms are finding that making the right choices at the right time could mean big wins for their business.

See the article in the Legal Support Network magazine