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These darn youngins with all their fancy new lingo. What in tarnation are they talkin' about?
We get it. It seems every day there is some new amorphous concept bandied about as the future of technology and the future of law firms. If you took the time to learn every one, you'd be a tech blogger instead of a real lawyer. Who would want that, right?
We're going to do the work for you. This is all about the cloud and how it will shape the future of how law firms are run. Our future "and Why Lawyers Should Give a Damn" columns will address other important tech issues that will affect your practice.
Think back to 1993. While this blogger was watching Spiderman cartoons and installing Windows 3.1 on a 486 PC via floppy disks (street cred y'all!), you were hearing early rumblings about the need for redundant backups. Copy everything to multiple floppies, they said. Perhaps invest in a zip drive as well.
Things haven't changed much. You still need to back everything up onto external hard drives, optical discs, thumb drives, or other physical storage. You still install software onto your computer and pray to Bill Gates that Windows doesn't crash (again). If it does, you'll be out of commission for hours while the IT guy reinstalls everything.
The feared Blue Screen of Death circa 1995.
What is it and what does it do?
The "cloud" is a concept made possible by constant high speed Internet. Everything is stored online, software included. The data is housed in redundant servers. If your computer crashes, or you simply want to work remotely, you pick up your laptop and your data is already there ... via the Internet.
That's the promise of the cloud. No manual backups. No downtime during computer crashes. No need to copy files back and forth between your desktop and laptop and tablet. It's all automatic. That's time spent billing, not backing up.
What are some of the other lawyer-specific benefits?
You can access client files in court. You can collaboratively edit documents, with co-counsel or opposing counsel, without having to send thirty-seven revisions, covered in ugly tracked changes, back and forth. You'll almost never worry about losing a client's file due to a hardware error, as all reputable cloud providers have redundant servers in multiple locations to guard against natural disasters and acts of God.
What are the potential issues?
Security. Hackers. Anything connected via the world wide web is going to be inherently less secure than an offline computer divorced from the world. A good cloud provider will have to have state of the art encryption, forced regular password changes, and other advanced security measures to secure sensitive client data.
There's also the cost. Servers cost money. So does development of secure could software. Most providers are going to charge a monthly fee. As time goes on, that fee will inevitably get smaller, but you'll have to weigh the cost against the benefits and enhanced efficiency (and the business expense tax deduction).