UK: Cloud Vs On Premise: Which One Should Your Firm Choose?

Last Updated: 1 May 2018
Article by Phil Ayton

The decision to host technology solutions on premise or within the cloud can be daunting for today's law firms. While on-premise servers offer increased security and integration, cloud solutions also have their advantages. If your firm is starting from scratch, you'll most likely choose to put all of your systems on the cloud. However, most firms already have a set of systems in place within their organisations, which makes the decision to go with cloud-based or on-premise software much trickier.

When evaluating and implementing new technology solutions, it's important to weigh the pros and cons of hosting it on-site or in the cloud. So, how do you decide which option is best for your firm?

Benefits of On-Premise

Running software on-site means there's also a cost for running a server internally. However, most organisations use virtualised shared servers, so the hardware cost is minimal. Any significant costs would most likely come from the licences for the server that you use to operate software, client access and database licences. Nonetheless, most firms and organisations already have enterprise licences in place that may eliminate the need for additional licensing. Finally, if the software makes use of a shared database server, no additional cost is incurred.

Some additional advantages of running software on a manage network include:

  • Single Sign-On: Since the software lives on the same network as your users, there shouldn't be any need for users to have multiple log-ins. On the other hand, cloud-based software will require users to log-on at least once.
  • User & Role Integration: Nearly all firms use network directories to manage lists and access rights of new and departing staff. Many also use the directories to hold details of the roles and departments for each user. An on-premise solution will allow you to tightly integrate user roles into the software to provide customised workflows and interfaces, with minimal effort on behalf of the firm.
  • Integration with Third Party Systems: If your organisation also wants to integrate account systems for client and matter data and document management systems for importing and exporting documents, you'll need to host the system on-premise.
  • Security and Resilience: Internal systems are held behind firewalls and backed up as part of a standard set of procedures. Since they are not on the internet, they are inherently more secure against external hackers. Furthermore, the data – and the backups – are held on your own premises, making them available even if there are internet connectivity or hosting issues.
  • Compliance: The recent introduction of the GDPR means that clients are responsible for policing the systems that are run on their behalf. This adds legal and auditing tasks to companies using outsourced suppliers. Keeping systems internal simplifies compliance.

Benefits of Cloud

A cloud server is simply a server managed by someone else. There are certain applications, such as email, perimeter security and data analytics, that require a skilled set of support staff due to the sheer volume of transactions and support requests from end users. However, there are other systems that are relatively passive and require minimal maintenance.

Some core benefits of using cloud servers include:

  • Data Segregation: Data that needs internal and external users to cooperate is best kept separate from internal data. If the external data is compromised, it does not affect the internal systems.
  • Prototyping: Hosting software on the cloud makes it easier to build and test concepts before deploying them.

The Best of Both Worlds: Hybrid

Essentially, on premise is a great option if you need to share data in-house, and cloud offers an ideal solution for sharing data outside your organisation. However, most firms need to share data both internally and externally. A hybrid hosting option allows you to keep client-based processes separate from in-house systems. Processes developed internally can be published to the cloud, and client portals can be developed without the involvement of your internal IT team.

To circumvent the issue of requiring users to log into a cloud server, some systems, such as Sysero, enable you to add a link on the internal server that automatically validates the user on the cloud, using a combination of encryption and location-based security.

For example, when a lawyer takes on a new client, they can enter in the matter details via an online web form that can be accessed by a link on the firm's intranet. The web form, which is hosted on the cloud, can then be shared with the client who can check the details before sending the form back to the lawyer. From the lawyer's perspective, the process is seamless, even though it makes use of both on-site and cloud hosting.

In the end, the decision to host software in-house or in the cloud depends on the unique circumstances of each firm. However, a good rule of thumb is that if data is being used internally, it's typically best to host it internally. If data is being shared externally, it's typically best to host it externally. And if data is being used in-house and with clients, as is typical with most organisations, it's best to find a hybrid hosting solution to offer maximum security and collaboration.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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