In what recently became an epic ILTA .listserv forum thread entitled “Law Firm Cloud Adoption,” contributors’ posts ran the gamut in their comments about where legal technology is today with respect to moving data and workloads to the cloud.
Way back in 2008, I first presented cloud computing’s benefits on behalf of Microsoft to the legal technology community at ILTA’s G100 gathering. You might as well have painted a big target on my chest.
CIOs were dismissive at best of the cloud’s ability to handle the data volumes, security requirements and performance needs of large firm lawyers. The insignificant cost-reduction of moving email management on-line was a huge disappointment, despite its significant advantages in back-up and recovery, business continuity, mobile access, and strategic redeployment of IT. The whole proposition of cloud computing was a non-starter.
Or so it seemed.
At the same time CIOs claimed the cloud couldn’t cut it for their environments, law firms had significant business processes and workloads already using it: payroll through vendors like ADP, virus-scanning, spam-filtering and other services like Dell One’s web identity management.
Over time, the legal IT community’s “big question” about cloud computing matured. What started out as a skeptical “Why?” progressed into an inquisitive “What?” What workloads actually do make sense to put in the cloud? What are the pros and cons of hosting a private cloud versus subscribing to public cloud services? What gains come from differentiating IaaS, PaaS and Saas in our environment?
Still, there remained the steady drumbeat of worries about cloud security. Even today, in the latest ILTA forum posts, many wrung their hands about the recent disclosure of Yahoo’s hacking.
Consider this: A while ago I attended an enterprise security Black Hat conference featuring a roundtable of reformed hackers. Although the event was for Fortune 1000 IT pros, one panelist’s comment about outside counsel struck me considerably. He casually remarked,
“When I want to find out what’s important to Boeing, I don’t try breaking into Boeing. I hack its law firm. It’s much easier, and that’s where Boeing’s most important documents are anyway.”
The lesson for us all isn’t to be wary of the cloud because of Yahoo; it’s that if it can happen to Yahoo, it can happen to you (and might be already).
With security concerns aside (because they’ll never completely go away), legal IT’s “big question” surrounding the cloud has clearly evolved. This forum’s discussion centered around “Who?” Who are the best hosters for legal service providers? Who has the best independent ratings, results and reliability in the cloud? Who is investing the most? Who already uses these hosters, and who is headed in the right direction with them?
Some cited Gartner Magic Quadrants, some pointed to dark horse vendors like Oracle, some confused VMware’s virtualization with cloud hosting, some ignored the difference between AWS as a platform provider versus Microsoft as a platform and solution provider, and some pointed out that Google is really on nobody’s map even though it’s largely credited for being the catalyst that started the whole thing in the first place.
All good discussion and worthwhile debate.
However, I posit that cloud computing’s real benefits will not fully land in legal until we collectively advance our “big question” yet one step further: “How?” How do we identify the right workloads to move into the cloud? How do we drive adoption with minimal disruption? How do we shift our IT resources (and budgets) to optimize for the cloud? How do we work with our key vendors to take this journey with us?
It’s only as the quality of our questions about the cloud improve that we’ll see the quality of our results improve too. And then the only remaining “big question” about cloud computing for each firm to ask will soon become: “When?”
At Litéra, we know more about authoring, securing and collaborating on documents in the cloud than anyone. We make your documents better, and that makes your clients better too. Ask us about how we can help you lead your law firm toward the cloud in the best way possible.
Sr. VP Corporate Development | Litéra