When you think about switching software, whether desktop or cloud-based, there are a lot of factors to consider, ranging from simple to complex. Starting with a simple question, “What do I need the software to do?” can be far more complex than expected.
3 Types of Software: Desktop, Hosted, and Cloud-Based
The first thing to decide is what access is needed. There are basically three options:
- Hosted desktop
In today’s environment, unless you are in an area with poor internet connectivity, cloud-based software is usually the top choice. Cloud software offers fixed pricing, plus your data is generally more secure, backups are handled by the vendor, you have anywhere-access, and you do not have to worry about running updates.
When using desktop software, the firm needs to take responsibility for security, backups, and updates to data, as well as remote access when needed. While hosting can reduce some of this, you are now paying for two providers and you need to make sure the parts work correctly. In addition, the hosting company will usually not be experts on the software, and so the firm must coordinate support when needed. And since access to the server may be limited, the firm will have to coordinate with the vendor or consultant and the hosting company to address issues and updates.
The Benefits of Cloud-Based Software
With ransomware and increasingly aggressive attacks, security and backups are becoming more critical. A cloud software product spreads the cost of enhanced security across many users. They will usually have servers in high-level secured areas and have multiple layers of security as well as backups. And they can provide this security far more cost-effectively than a small firm may be able to do and with more attention to detail since this is a key aspect of their business.
How easy is it for someone to gain access to your server when you are not in the office? For cloud software companies, unless authorized, it is very difficult physically or through cyber-attacks to gain access. For extra higher security, look for two-factor authentication.
For many firms, remote access to data only became important when there was a natural disaster that shut down the office or when someone was ill and needed to work from home. These were usually short term, and remote desktop solutions were made to work.
In today’s environment, we have seen how important remote access is. Firms on cloud software were more able to migrate smoothly to the needed work-from-home environments.
10 Stages to Shift to Cloud-Based Legal Software
Once you have made the decision that a cloud solution is right for your firm, there are several stages the firm should go through. These are not exclusive, and some stages may run in parallel.
- Identify your needs and wants.
- Examine all solutions.
- Pick a solution.
- Examine the environment and make changes as needed. This might include something like Office 365 for email or making sure the office has sufficient bandwidth for good access.
- Determine what data will be migrated.
- Set up a conversion and training plan.
- Migrate data.
- Train users.
- Begin using new software.
- Continue training to expand how you use the software and keep up with enhancements that may present opportunities for the firm to increase productivity.
How to Identify Your Firm’s Software Needs and Wants
Many firms have trouble identifying what they need and want. Start by looking at your current software and processes. What do you like and dislike about your software? What causes you to say, “There should be a better way” or “I wish it did this”? Make sure that people from multiple areas of the firm are included in the process as they are likely to have different perspectives.
It is a good idea to prioritize your needs and wants to help in narrowing down choices. It is possible that you will not find a solution that meets all your needs and wants, but prioritizing will help. When you list a need, make sure that it is stated clearly and understood by all. For example, “tracking costs” is broad and might be detailed out as:
You also want to think about where in the process the software fits. Perhaps you think you need new billing software. If you are currently using separate products for billing, accounting, and practice management, you may want to expand your focus and think about an all-in-one solution to eliminate duplicate entry. Alternatively, you may want to combine billing and accounting or look at solutions that integrate so that you do not risk double entries.
How to Choose the Best Cloud-Based Legal Software for Your Firm
There are many options available in the legal cloud space. Knowing your requirements will help you narrow the field. You can speak to salespeople or you can work with a knowledgeable consultant. While salespeople are very helpful, remember that they are focused on selling their product, so ask questions and see a demo. As you narrow the field, get references and test the software if possible. Make sure you understand what roles different parties will play.
Services may be provided by the firm or by a consultant. Make sure that whatever is provided fits your firm’s needs and wants. Communicate to make sure you will have the detail you need in converted data and for moving forward. Or perhaps you have someone who needs extra help or personalized training, make sure you discuss these situations early.
Of course, as part of your due diligence, you should find out the security, availability, and backup processes of the cloud vendor. You may also want to ask the vendor about their long term direction. Understanding what types of enhancement they are thinking about for the future and how well they listen to customer suggestions can give you valuable insight into establishing your relationship.
Deciding on the best cloud-based legal software for your firm is a multi-step process that starts with “maybe we need to change” and ends with new software and smiling faces. The right process and the right people can make this happen.