Coming up cloudy by Nick Hayne, Pulsant

This blog post was also featured as a column in the September 2017 issue of Legal Practice Management magazine. To read the issue in full, download LPM magazine.

Law firms face most of the same challenges as other businesses — from budgetary constraints and skills shortages to cybersecurity and productivity challenges. But legal firms must also face compliance and regulatory challenges that can have a significant impact on operations in terms of steep fines, reputational damage and action by the SRA.

There's no easy way around these challenges, and for many firms seeking solutions is merely a cost of doing business and operating within a highly regulated industry.

Then there’s the issue of a changing workforce – we are more scattered than ever before, more demanding in our technology requirements (think about the influx of millennials) and want to work differently. Bringing staff together from across disparate offices with those that work remotely or travel frequently can bring an added level of complexity to operations. The question for IT managers, and indeed even practice managers or partners, is how you keep staff happy and productive while maintaining high levels of security and compliance.

For many firms, technology has played a leading role in helping overcome issues, particularly around security, access control and network safety, and IT-related compliance. One of the best examples here is hybrid cloud. It’s not anything new for businesses but its flexibility and functionality is driving a rise in adoption.

We’re all aware of the benefits of cloud – costeffectiveness, scalability, agility. And those same advantages apply to hybrid cloud. But for legal users, hybrid cloud provides the perfect balance: public cloud services for areas that are not governed by regulation, like hosting email servers, and private cloud storage for critical business data and applications. The latter is more secure because cloud providers typically provide much higher levels of security in their data centres than firms could provide in-house.

There are also better opportunities for disaster recovery and business continuity. In the event of a disruption, be it a network error, rail strike or weather event that makes it difficult for staff to get to the office, data and applications remain available and are backed up off site.

Of course cloud doesn’t solve every single issue, but it does add value. It even supports the use of other business applications and services that can be used to solve other challenges. Desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) or virtual desktop services are applications legal firms are readily adopting. DaaS securely provides a common set of productivity and line-of-business applications to all end users, allowing consumption of these services from any device, at any time, from any location.

But it’s not just the use of technology that has a role to play — it’s the use of the technology vendor, too. They have the security credentials, industry expertise and the ability to understand specific business requirements and challenges. What this means is that you’re not getting a standard solution, but rather a tailored approach based on what you actually need to meet your objectives.

In an ever-changing industry, keeping up with market trends, increasing internal pressures and evolving regulations, legal firms need a host of tools and resources to ensure they can meet all requirements while still driving themselves forward — from technology, to experienced technology partners. 

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