It is easy to get started with cloud computing – but you should still think strategically about making the move. For instance, your new cloud services will need to interact with your existing IT systems, which may involve a complex mix of internally developed applications and third-party software. Any move to the cloud will involve a certain amount of disentangling. A sensible starting point is to simplify your existing IT system to establish what works well in-house and what would benefit from being moved to the cloud.
Private cloud v public cloud
The majority of cloud computing services are now delivered through what is known as the public cloud. These services are offered on a ‘one-to-many’ or ‘utility’ basis. This means that the standard functionality of the service is offered to all, although some element of customisation or configuration for individual needs can still take place. For example, using a public cloud-based email system would allow you to configure mailbox settings and dictate who has permission to access the service and from which devices, but would not allow you to demand changes to the supplier’s security policy. Public cloud services typically share hardware and software between multiple clients of the provider, with only software-based security controls in place to make sure that one client cannot access another's data. A key factor with public cloud services is that the terms of the contract tend to be fairly fixed. Provided you are satisfied with the functionality, compliance and security arrangements on offer, it is perfectly possible to run the majority, or indeed all, aspects of a legal practice using the public cloud, including email, document production, practice management, storage and networks.
By contrast, private cloud services are tailored more precisely to the needs of the customer. For example, it is usual for private clouds to be run on separate hardware, which adds an additional layer of physical security. As with more traditional IT procurement, fully negotiated agreements are more likely to be put in place to meet specific customer needs, albeit such a bespoke arrangement is likely to come with a commensurate price tag.
Larger law firms are likely to make use of a hybrid cloud offering, for example, using an on-premises private cloud to host sensitive data and critical workloads and a third-party public cloud provider for less critical resources. Most smaller legal firmsare likely to use public cloud services, possibly with some element of berspokework to integrate with other practice systems.