Cloud in the legal sector
There is now a general acceptance across the sector around cloud technologies as more and more firms get ‘comfortable with cloud’.
And, as cloud offerings mature, and the legal sector becomes increasingly comfortable with consuming cloud services, the range of solutions available will inevitably increase to suit new business needs and capitalise on different opportunities specific to the legal sector.
“Historically, there was a lot of nervousness in the industry about moving in-house IT systems to the cloud; especially in the legal sector where data is highly sensitive and most information is incredibly confidential to individual clients,” says Joanna Kingston-Davies, COO at the Jackson Lees Group.* “However, we’ve found that if you choose a respected and experienced cloud provider, your data is safer in their data centres than your own, due to the levels of 24/7 security, resiliency and manpower that they can direct to your IT services. Now, the way I see it, is that firms can’t afford to take the risk of not using cloud services.”
A changing legal sector
This change in ‘cloud perception’ could be down to firms transforming the way they deliver services themselves; with many businesses transitioning to a virtual model without the traditional office structure and face to face client engagement.
“There is a move across the sector for more legal services to be ‘virtualised’,” adds Bill Kirby, Director at legal consultancy specialist, Professional Choice Consultancy. “We are seeing firms without central offices delivering virtual services and many consuming outsourced accountancy, outsourced document production and outsourced telephone answering. As this happens more and more, it’s only natural that their IT services will be outsourced and hosted externally – cloud is driving changes in the legal sector, but also the increasing virtualisation of legal services is changing perceptions about how IT is consumed in the industry.”
Delivering or consuming more solutions ‘as-a-service’ has opened many firms’ eyes to the opportunity that cloud and hosted solutions can offer them. Today, many firms are as comfortable with consuming IT as a hosted service, as they are with utilities and energy services.
But adopting cloud is as much about taking defensive measures to protect your firm, as it is about capitalising on future opportunities. Nowadays, hosted IT and cloud services can contribute to ensuring that ongoing business operations remain commercially sustainable.
“It’s estimated that 60% of firms will have hosted IT services within the next 5 years, including the top 200 firms that to date have done little to address this,” comments Bill Kirby. “Most firms today can’t afford to have any downtime or disruption to their IT services, so many businesses are now embracing hosted services as a way of delivering around-the-clock client service without dramatically increasing costs. Delivering a 24/7 IT operation in-house just isn’t commercially viable for the majority of firms, so a hosted IT service makes commercial and practical sense.”
Industry pressures increasing the move to cloud
Regulatory changes in the industry to improve service satisfaction and billing transparency for clients have meant firms are having to look at how their operations can be made more efficient to cope with commercial challenges around delivering more cost-effective services in order to compete with alternative business structures in the legal sector. But firms are still reluctant to jump straight into full public cloud services.
“More and more law firms are getting comfortable with the idea of putting their central IT systems into the public cloud, with many firms embracing Office 365 for email and communications. Regulatory pressures to drive more efficiencies are encouraging firms to look at more efficient approaches to their operations, and public cloud delivered through a carefully managed service is a no-brainer for many organisations in the legal sector,” says Nigel Redwood, CEO at Nasstar.
Aside from driving efficiency, security is always top of mind in many firms. Many now recognise that it can be more secure to outsource their IT to a specialist provider who is an expert in detecting, managing and mitigating cyber threats, than it is to run IT operations in-house.
“It’s getting harder for firms to manage IT security themselves in-house,” says Bill Kirby, “and many firms don’t want to carry the risk of downtime or damage to their brand reputation in the event of a cyber-attack. For many businesses in this sector, a security breach would mean the end of their business, so putting that risk into the hands of an IT hosting partner who is expert in managing and monitoring IT security on a 24/7 basis is a way of reducing overall risk across the business operations.”
Nasstar works hand in hand with firms across the UK, helping them to navigate the cloud landscape; wherever they are on their cloud maturity journey. More firms are now looking at bringing public cloud solutions into what they do, but many aren’t comfortable with managing and integrating true public cloud services themselves.
“Nasstar’s hybrid approach to marrying public cloud solutions with our own in-house private cloud is delivering results for customers in the legal sector,” says Nigel Redwood, CEO of Nasstar. “We’ve recently been working with a firm who has used our service to deliver IT to its users in Australia and the UK, using Citrix and HPE technology with Microsoft Azure public cloud services for around the clock availability and support.”