The term cloud has been bandied about for some time now. It is however a very amorphous, or if I may, cloudy term.
To take the cloud very generally, it really is software or applications that are stored on the Internet. The earliest forms of cloud based applications really just included things such as hotmail or yahoo mail. In essence a way to replace desktop email. Those services weren’t referred to as the cloud, but they are. Gmail, the mail service from Google is definitely part of the cloud.
More specifically though, when we talk about the cloud we are talking about case management software that is completely online, with the data itself being on the cloud as well. For example, Clio, Chrometa, RocketMatter and RTG. Office 2010 can be hosted on the cloud too. If your favorite popular software isn’t already on the cloud, chances are it will be soon.
Why the Cloud?
The cloud has both positive and negative implications.
- Easily accessible from any location with Internet access
- Always backed-up
- IT support normally included
- Can be expensive
- Requires Internet access (lose Internet access, can’t access work.)
- Must be careful to pick a good host
- Security concerns
Should you Go Cloud?
Whether you should use the cloud really varies based on your personal needs. I don’t mind telling you my own use of the cloud:
- Currently, I use the cloud for my case management software, and I love it, but that doesn’t mean everyone should.
- I also use the cloud for my email.
- I do not use cloud for Office 2010, mainly because of its expense.
- I am in a position to know what hosts are reliable and secure, so I am not too concerned about those issues.
- I am also not too concerned about losing Internet access, since I haven’t been in too many locations where Internet access wasn’t available. Should I lose one form of access at home, I always have a back up; I can just tether my phone and use that to connect to the Internet.
What I Recommend
- I think everyone should have access to email when they are out of the office. Most people use smart phones for this. I use a mixture of my smartphone, cloud based applications and software on my computer.
- I will also be switching to cloud based Microsoft exchange. This means I won’t need to buy an expensive email server or worry about the bulk of IT for my email.
- As far as other items, it will depend on whether you are setting up something new or are happy with what you have. If you are happy then you don’t need to rush to change it.
- Case Management and Billing: there are a lot of good cloud based services. There are a lot of good non-cloud based services. Look at both.
- Most people don’t need cloud based Office 2010, and it can be cost prohibitive. However if you are a small office, don’t want to buy a server and want to outsource your IT management, cloud might be a good option for you.
- If you need to access you office computer, you generally can use a service such as LogMeIn.
- In the end, you need to compare the costs of all related services to come to a conclusion.
Do you Travel a Lot?
If you travel a great deal, you might find cloud the easiest way to go. Especially if you travel Internationally. In that case, at the least I would recommend:
- Cloud based case management and billing
- Consider cloud based Office 2010 including outlook exchange service, especially since it provides IT support
- Though I haven’t mentioned it, and it is a bit outside this article, a VOIP service that will easily enable you to access your phone through your computer as well as on your cell phone.
Cloud is still evolving and it isn’t a solution I would suggest for everyone. It is important to look at the positives and the negatives, go with a very good and secure host, and make certain the pricing makes sense for you and your firm. If you do these things and find that cloud ends up to be the better choice, go for it.