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Guest article: Cloud computing in the legal industry

by Julian Box, CTO, Virtustream

In a data intensive environment such as a law firm, 24×7 accessibility of data and robust availability of applications are a prerequisite. In such an environment, cloud computing can address availability concerns by ensuring a secure, flexible framework. In addition to providing high availability, there are a number of other factors that can drive cloud adoption including the reduction of carbon footprints and cost savings.

However, like in many other industries, cloud computing is a term that is bandied around a lot in the legal sector. A great number of cloud computing companies talk about the huge benefits firms can achieve by migrating to the cloud, without really explaining much behind the technology itself or any specifics behind their claims. It is unsurprising therefore that so much confusion still remains and why many law firms are still wary about committing themselves to the cloud.

One of the major issues seen by law firms as a potential barrier to cloud adoption is cost.  Managing your own resources inhouse historically seemed like the cheaper option. However, as IT environments have become increasingly complex, with management and energy costs on the rise, and disaster recovery and security as major initiatives for IT departments, internal IT management and resources are no longer the most cost effective solution.

Some cloud computing provisioning firms have introduced an evolution in IT pricing and delivery made available through self-service based portals via the Internet or direct connection with a flexible, pay as you go business model. This requires a highly scalable, flexible and efficient architecture with data residing within multi-tenanted, dynamically scalable resource pools. The result of these new IT pricing and delivery strategies have made all the benefits of moving into the cloud eminently more affordable.

Even law firms moving from an already highly optimised virtual private cloud environment to an off-premise, hybrid enterprise cloud platform can realise substantial savings. A recent presentation at IP Expo 2010 showed that law firms could expect savings up to 19% even from such a sophisticated starting point. Moving from a purely physical environment where many of the UK law firms are currently standing could see remarkable savings at a time where budgets are increasingly stretched to the limit.

Over the next few months we will see an increase of private and public sector organisations making the move into the cloud. For a long time, the benefits of cloud computing have been talked about and debated, but now it is time for the technology to deliver on its promise. In such data rich environment as a law firm, the impact that moving into a cloud environment could have is substantial.

And here's a link to the presentation Julian Box gave at IP Expo…