The "Cloud" is really a catch all idea that has been the buzzword in legal technology over the past two years and really harkens back to the early days of computing and the model of server / mainframe with "thin client" users. Thirty years ago or so, the model of computing revolved around the storage of data on large servers with the clients accessing both the data and the programs that displayed that data from a terminal connected to that server. As the power of the personal computer grew, more and more data wound up being stored and processed on the end user's computer. Today, with the growth of fast internet connections, the idea of "The Cloud" has taken hold...an idea which is little more than the mainframe / client idea of 30 years ago. The main difference is that now the client does not have to be connected to the local network that the mainframe resides. The client can now connect to the data over the internet using little more than a web browser.
The utilization of the cloud provides the user with many competitive advantages. Storing your data in the cloud gives the user the ability to access their data from anywhere. Whether you are on your office computer, a home computer a Smart-phone, tablet, or your neighbor's computer, you can log into your secure cloud-based service and access your data in a predictable manner. The first push back I often hear from attorneys when talking about the cloud revolves around security. My common answer is that with a little due diligence (which is often already done by our bar associations) you can choose a reputable cloud provider who provides better security for your data than you could provide yourself. I draw a parallel to how a bank stores money. If you have $10 dollars, a secure place for it could be your pocket or your sock drawer. But if you have $10,000,000, it is far more likely that you would store it in a bank. The bank's expertise is in securing the storage of large sums of money. They have teams of people who are experts in that field. The same applies to the cloud based provider. They have teams of experts whose sole job it is to monitor and secure your data. They do it on a 24/7/365 basis, utilizing the same security procedures that a bank does with your money. Having performed many security audits on law firms in the past, I have found that it is quite easy to hack a firms local network, but I have yet been able to hack a reputable cloud based legal services provider (or a bank!).
Another important concept in cloud based computing is the idea of decentralization. Your data is stored in a secure data facility and is likely replicated and backed up to geo-diverse locations around the country. In the event of a catastrophic event at the data center, you are likely to experience little down time as the connection would fail over to another facility. Furthermore, your data is backed up on regular and automatic schedule, far more often than you could do yourself. The loss of data more than 15 minutes old becomes less and less likely.
The cloud can be used for things as simple as storing your files but can also be used for things as complex as full blown practice management systems and phone switching, both of which will be touched upon as we progress. In addition, it is likely that you have been using cloud based systems for years without even thinking about it. If you have used AOL, Gmail, Yahoo Mail or any such provider...remember that your email is being stored on their servers of which you can access from almost anywhere with a predictable feel, regardless of the location or device you choose.
#2 - Email. Stay tuned...
John McCarron - TechConnect