The Cloud is the fastest-growing IT architecture in the world today, with spending on “public cloud” platforms alone — such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud — expected to grow from $146 Billion in 2017 to $178 Billion in 2018, according to Forrester Research. Within the legal services marketplace specifically, after a few years of stagnation, the number of lawyers using cloud platforms jumped to 52 percent last year, according to the ABA 2017 Legal Technology Survey.

For those law firms contemplating migration to the cloud, there are a few common pain points that tend to haunt them as they sift through their various options for how to proceed:

  • Security — A recent survey of information security experts that was published in CSO Online uncovered 12 common data security concerns that must be carefully managed before, during and after a cloud migration.
  • Downtime — Businesses lose approximately 3.6 percent of their annual revenues due to IT downtimes, according to one report, which is a particular risk any time data is migrated to a new IT platform.
  • Skills — Nearly half of businesses (49 percent) are delaying cloud deployment due to concerns about a gap in the necessary skills among their IT security team, according to Forbes.com.

Faced with these anxieties, many law firms and legal services providers are opting to partner with an expert in cloud services to manage the entire cloud migration for them. Cloud services providers can not only manage the transition to the cloud for a law firm, but can also optimize performance and drive innovation over a period of time. Specifically, working with a firm that has proven expertise in the legal vertical market enables law firms to leverage the invaluable real-world experience that can only come from a team of experts who have been there before and handled cloud migrations for other firms in the space. This includes knowing how to develop sound transition plans, create proper documentation, design sound architecture, deploy best-of-breed firewall measures and handle other important operational details associated with the deployment of a cloud-based platform.

A managed cloud solution allows law firms to access a flexible platform that can scale up or down in response to their needs at any given time. Firms that have tried to spin up their own cloud solution have struggled with the massive capital expenditures required up-front to acquire the necessary infrastructure and then the recurring cap ex bill every three to five years when enhancements are required. By contrast, working with a managed services provider allows law firms to budget a predictable amount of money each month to pay to the vendor, with the comfort of knowing that the cloud provider assumes full responsibility for making those required cap ex investments. This represents a superior operating model for most firms because it enables them to handle bursts in workloads without making additional IT infrastructure investments.

Within this framework of cloud adoption, the Microsoft Azure environment is an attractive option for many law firms because it is closer to the end users’ comfort levels as it is built with the same familiar look as the Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft OneDrive platforms. To that end, there are three keys to successfully managing a law firm’s deployment of a new cloud-based platform in the Microsoft Azure environment.

1. Migration

This requires advance planning and guidance on how to best leverage all of the unique services and features of the cloud environment, design and development of the optimal cloud solution for the unique needs of the firm, and migration and validation of the new platform in the Microsoft Azure environment. This addresses the law firm pain point of security because the cloud solutions provider has the necessary expertise to set up the Azure platform in a secure, software-defined environment. This expertise is important because Azure is a unique cloud platform with its own nuances that need to be understood.

2. Operation

It’s essential to maintain fully staffed 24/7/365 support management and monitoring of the platform, state-of-the-art data security protocols, customized service and performance reporting, and streamlined billing processes. This reduces the law firm pain of downtime because the cloud services provider deploys highly redundant, state-of-the-art systems that reduce the risk of business disruption for any cause.

3. Optimization

The managed cloud services team should make ongoing recommendations for ways to maximize the use of the cloud platform, develop new performance improvement features, and assist with more efficient data transfer and migration. This addresses the law firm pain point of skills because the managed services provider has deep experience with managing different public cloud environments, data centers, firewalls, etc., and eliminates the skills gap in staffing.

HBR Managed Technology Services (MTS) was recently engaged by a leading e-Discovery services company to build, deploy and manage a comprehensive litigation review platform in the Microsoft Azure cloud environment. The MTS-managed cloud solution will be offered to this company’s law firm clients as a new option for how to access their e-Discovery software applications and litigation data, in the event they wish to migrate their litigation review platform to the cloud. In addition to mitigating risk related to data security, this new option will allow law firms to more easily access their e-Discovery software applications, reduce capital investment requirements for hardware and data storage, and eliminate anxieties related to network availability and performance. MTS also has an ongoing engagement with another major e-Discovery software company in which the firm assisted with the migration of the software company’s cloud-based platform to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) environment, so the same principles can be applied to other cloud environments as well.

Moreover, managed cloud solutions such as those deployed in the Azure and AWS environments are just one of a few IT hosting options available to law firms. For example, some firms simply opt to work with a provider such as MTS to deploy a Colocation solution, where MTS provides physical space with environmental controls for computing environments and the firm’s own IT team collaborates with MTS engineers for the day-to-day operations. Other firms choose to work with MTS to obtain an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solution, which is essentially a hosted service that offers tiered pricing and more flexibility than Colocation.

Regardless of which specific offering is most suitable for a specific law firm, managed cloud services are becoming more trusted each day because they provide a cost-effective strategy for law firm IT teams to achieve data security, risk management, scalability and technology expertise for their cloud migration. For more information, please contact Tagg Madden.

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