Are you concerned that cloud software will up-end your applications and require re-engineering of hard-won workflows?
Can you use your existing legal software in the cloud so your firm can get the benefits of both worlds?
In this article we address these questions and provide a primer on the technology underpinnings of running traditional legal software in the cloud.
Familiar, convenient, trusted legal software
If you’re like many Canadian law firms, your software is entwined with your practice and after years of use, it represents a significant investment on which you have great reliance. In addition to the cost of purchasing licenses, upgrades, equipment and support, you have internal processes built around your systems and have dedicated many hours to learning and training staff. Changing these programs would be daunting, and in the best case highly disruptive.
Private Cloud – what is it?
Cloud computing offers many compelling benefits including improved performance, security and mobility. Yet, many cloud systems require wholesale adoption of new browser-based software. Out with trusted programs and in with new, less mature alternatives.
If you prefer evolution to revolution, a new option has emerged in recent years for running traditional legal applications while gaining the benefits of cloud: Private Cloud.
Private Cloud preserves the efficiencies of mature feature-rich software while delivering the strategic business benefits of cloud computing.
MS Windows in the cloud
Traditional desktop legal software like PC Law, Time Matters®, and Worldox run natively on the MS Windows operating system. They install files, make registry entries, and put icons on our desktops for running the software. They are powerful, feature-rich and usually much more interactive than web-based alternatives. They may rely on other computers and software on your network, such as MS SQL Server, for functions such as searching and managing data. They also keep your data private and segregated from other clients.
By logging in to your network, you become part of a Windows “domain”, such as ABC Law LLP domain, that protects all of your firm’s information. All the computers in your office, including additional servers, participate in the domain and Windows ensures our applications and authorized users, and nobody else, can access your information. The central Windows computer managing security is called the “domain controller” and it runs Microsoft Active Directory to keep track of your users and their permissions. It often also acts as a file server for saving documents and for applications to save data such as accounting information.
The advent of increasingly powerful hardware, and sophisticated software for separating activities between users, has meant that it is now possible to create your Windows domain in a private data centre instead of using hardware in your office. This is Private Cloud, and it allows you to fully delegate the management of your Windows network to specialized technical experts. In the cloud, your network benefits from organized security updates, comprehensive backup schemes, and regular upgrades – all without your involvement. Plus, because the vendor is responsible for the system in the data centre, there’s no server equipment to buy.
Virtual desktops – the final piece of the puzzle
A Windows network is one thing, but how do you access your legal software in the cloud?
The final requirement is a Windows user session containing your applications that you access from outside of the data centre, such as from your office. This requires “virtual desktop” software such as Citrix Receiver or Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS), which provide users with access to a Windows desktop session running in the data centre.
In the office, the virtual desktop looks like a standard Windows computer on which you can run all of your software and access your data. It looks just like it always has. However, in reality the virtual desktop runs in the data centre where it can be expertly managed and protected. Your screen is a view into the data centre, and the input from your keyboard and mouse are processed by your Windows session in the data centre.
Almost magically, Private Cloud provides the benefits of proven legal software, while delivering the strategic business benefits of cloud computing.
To learn more about using the Private Cloud in your firm, download Cloud IT for Law Firms: Executive Summary for Firm Partners.
|Karim Jinnah, LL.B is president and co-founder of LexCloud.ca.|
LexCloud.ca has provided technical services to Canadian lawyers for over 25 years and is the leading provider of Private Cloud for law firms in Canada. Contact us for a free consultation.