At the “Up, Up, and Away! Your Ascent into the Cloud!” session at ILTACON 2015, a panel of experts assembled to discuss the current state of cloud computing in the legal market. IT professionals from Broad and Cassle and Eagle Technologies discussed modern uses of cloud computing and analyzed its effectiveness in the legal marketplace.

The panel hypothesized that some of the push for cloud computing comes from the fact that CIOs prefer operational expenses and that capital expenses can be unpredictable and painful. There’s a perception that the cloud is more cost effective and law firms feel compelled to investigate the use of it for their purposes. Another driver is that talent can also be expensive and hard to find.

There’s always heavy discussion around the definition of cloud computing, and in this session the speakers broke it down by defining characteristics they believe should be common to all cloud implementations.

Five essentials of the cloud:

  • On-Demand Self-Service: Provision without human interaction with the service provider
  • Broad Network Access: Access from nearly anywhere to eliminate location dependence
  • Resource Pooling: Multi-tenant model, pooled resources, location independence
  • Rapid Elasticity: Scale rapidly outward or inward
  • Measured Service: Metering capability

The panel moved on to discuss deployment models for cloud computing at a high level. The merits of public, private, community and hybrid cloud models.

Considerations

According to the panel, the biggest consideration for how to choose a cloud provider should be vendor lock-in. If your company decides to change vendors, how much will it cost to get your data back from your current provider? In some cases it can cost more to get your data out than to buy a brand new solution, making the cost of leaving the vendor unfeasible. Other important considerations included carefully reviewing service level agreements, contract length and any factors with significant legal implications. This has been a pain point for many companies who have been focused on the technological benefits of the cloud and failed to see shortcomings at an operational level.

Choosing a solution first

The panel recommended considering needs before developing a prejudice toward going with a cloud or on-site solution and offered the following methodology:

  1. Determine your needs
  2. Assess your environment (collect data)
  3. Solve your problem from an academic standpoint
  4. Find the products that meet your needs
  5. Evaluate management and geography options

The session closed on the thought that there’s no one-size-fits-all cloud solution for every situation, so careful consideration is necessary for each project. In some situations, cloud solutions can be a great cost saver and offer rich features for end consumers, but they must be adopted carefully.