Right now there is a flood of private equity flowing into ‘cloud’ providers, especially law practice management clouds. As a result there is an overabundance of online advertisements.

Whether you are a pilot, sailor or business owner it is important to know how to read your clouds, because not all clouds are the same.

In the photo one of the two cloud types is telling you that there is an approaching weather front, 300 miles away and in which direction.  I know that because my Navy pilot brother shared that knowledge years ago. Some simple rules of the road can be very beneficial.

When I see the word ‘cloud’ used in legal tech promotions it drives me little crazy.  My point is, decision makers need to understand the differences of varying types of cloud options.

The category of Online Forms is one good example.  Online forms are not ‘exclusive’ legal technology. In fact the most capable online forms are not made available from legal tech vendors.

Of course, most any online forms options from a law tech vendor can capture the contact information of a new lead. The fact they integrate to their exclusive, made for purpose legal billing is an advantage..

However, If you need best in category form features for a comprehensive intake, then one cloud option choice will work and another may well not. 

Case in Point
Our estate planning law firm clients want a better soluttion for client intake. Better for their law firm and their clients.  Furthermore, a firm with a vision of offering a yearly client care program will certainly need the best in class features found only in dedicated online forms systems.

In fact we have found more options such asintegration with both Zapier and MS Power Automate which opens a whloe new ‘dataverse’ of options for automated workflow.      

The surprise is the dedicated online vendor has greater scale and their pricing is lower for the more advanced online forms.  

Just as the utility company says ‘call before you dig’, I say ‘know before you go’ to the cloud.  

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Two years ago we started our own hosting service and used it ourselves for a year and also with a client. It worked fine, but we backed away from that structure because, honestly, even with a certain level of redundancy, the thought of a central point of failure was too scary.

We continue to offer both traditional server arrangements, as well as, subscription based, cloud style contracts for an on premise server. We include remote desktop services (terminal server) as required.  We have added a Disaster Recovery (DR) option where the entire environment may be brought online separately using both a local device, and if needed a remote DR location.  This can be done at a savings of up to one half the price that I see hosted system providers charge and at the same time allows Premier to make a decent margin.

For my money, you get the best price/performance with an on premise server with remote desktop services.  Regarding terminal server, one 70 user firm  we support has 30-40 users who have worked in terminal services mode for the last 10+ years. Other smaller firms have their own subscription based server in their office, except for one firm which is totally virtual so we have had their server in our location for the last few years.  Most firms run TM, Billing, Office, Adobe, HotDocs and Quickbooks.

As reliable as the hosted service providers seem to be, my ideal system configuration calls for a separate Disaster Recovery (DR) infrastructure, as independent and separate as possible.  In other words, If Plan A fails do you really want your Plan B to be totally dependent on the same people and related resources that provided Plan A.   We are using standard Microsoft technology to support Plan A, which is familiar to by most local techs, if ever needed.

Our Plan B involves DR software and a local device and offsite option. This provides the means to virtualize the entire server and PC environment and operate locally if/when needed or operate off-site.  BDR also provides the means to test the failover plan, as often as desired, or try out new apps or the effect of a new upgrade.  In the age of ransomware, it seems DR is a level that is now highly desired and increasingly required by law firms.

We have investigated and know others who have worked with DinCliud, AirDesk, Legal Anywhere, Uptime Systems and Abacus Cloud, and with all of the above, my questions to fellow consultants and law firms involved with online systems are:

‘Do you firms have a backup only or a true disaster recovery strategy’

‘Is it separate from the vendor’s primary infrastructure, i.e. an independent data center, run by separate staff?’

Does anyone offer the ability to ‘recover and run their hosted environment on a device at their firm?’

‘Compared to on premise, ‘Do your online system providers require special apps, extra steps or have slower performance especially when printing or scanning?’

‘How much does an extra GB cost from a hosted system provider?’

‘Do temporary staff require logins that cost just as much as a regular user? ‘

‘Do you have restrictions on Administrator level access?’

Any other unexpected plus or minus using your hosted system provider?