Top tips for Legal Firms moving to the Cloud

1. Be ready for change

For a legal practice's CIO, a balance needs to be made between innovating and differentiating on the one hand and saving money and delivering efficiencies on the other. And yet, costs and legacy systems are both major drawbacks, lengthy procurement cycles breed inertia and protracted provisioning undermines confidence and buy-in.

Don't be blindsided by all of this. It's important that your firm has the flexibility and speed to deliver a pragmatic, urgent response to effect change within the business. And remember all of that may well involve leveraging the richer proposition now available from off-premise/managed specialists.

2. Take a long-term view with data management

As a law firm's CIO, two of your most frequent problems will undoubtedly involve data storage and management. It's tempting to think about short-term fixes and fall into the trap of treating the symptoms of data management issues - there's an increase in data versus the actual root cause.

A short term investment might take away storage problems for a while, but a year down the line, the growth of data could be such that it outstrips your storage, either tape-based or online. It might mean going back and starting again with a data storage plan or applying more budget, but a third option could be introducing a more structured approach to direct more care and attention to data management.

3. No storage is the same

Legal practices are renowned for storing large quantities of data with the need to back-up everything. Despite the low cost in storage today, there are still significant back-up costs attached, especially when demand growth can get up to 50% per year. Moreover, you don't need to back everything to primary or secondary storage. As many as 70% of files (usually emails) on the average system will not have been accessed for six months or more.

Having said that, there is always a small amount of critical data that needs to be available for daily operations, plus data needs to be replicated, backed up and ready for staff to access in real-time. Data needs to be categorised and graded according to its value to the business and so should be treated differently when it comes to storing and backing-up.

4. Put data tiering in place

Data tiering is a Cloud-based service that can be implemented as a quick, one-off solution, or as part of a longer/broader Cloud journey. For any firm that's looking for a more practical, economical approach to data management, it's worth considering. Data tiering improves the overall archiving of old data and reduces the size and cost of the core back up volume, whilst making replication of mission-critical data more accessible and affordable.

The main benefits include reduction of spend on data management; greater control over the growth of inactive data to be classified and archived; reduction of primary and back-up data and backup window; shorter disaster recovery times; data is more available as a result of less pressurised primary servers and storage and more resources, money and energy are freed up to spend on 'added value' projects.

5. Make use of unified communications

Unified Communications (UC) is already gaining traction in the legal sector because it's seen as an enabler for collaboration amongst teams, but it should be considered as a more fundamental development than just improving comms capabilities.

Today, reducing costs and efficiency is a primary concern for law firms, making it the ideal time to start looking at UC. It has the potential to reinvent operations, eliminating time, money and resources wasted from pointless phone calls, redundant emails, myriad devices and offsite meetings. But the challenge is making it happen. On-premise deployment of UC is a major project that needs the right skills and finance in place.

Making a case for an off-premise approach, there are service providers that can deliver the full spectrum of UC capabilities giving you access to every element from a single vendor. They can deliver a converged IP telephony environment; best-of-breed communication and productivity tools; together with fully managed, Cloud-based delivery that eliminates potential risk and cost burdens while assuring the quality of performance and support. Clients can benefit from a cost-effective migration strategy that provides a flexible, fast-track route to the world of UC.

6. Planning your IT strategy

While Cloud-based off-premise IT solutions have been slow to get off the ground, there is evidence to suggest that this is soon to change. Legal practices can tap into significant benefits by moving certain key applications over to a Cloud-based approach, which could include data management and Unified Communications, which will knock down the barriers of cost, skilled resource and risk with their migration designed to overcome legacy systems smoothly to strengthen business processes. You don't necessarily have to commit to a wholesale Cloud-based off-premise approach, but it's worth devising a strategy and developing a solution that suits your firm's needs.