The pandemic proved a great motivator for reluctant law firms to finally make the move to the cloud. Now, firms are faced with learning how to use their cloud-based technology more effectively and efficiently — and get the most from their cloud budget.
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Getting the best bang for your buck in the cloud requires careful thought and planning. There’s no one-size-fits-all cloud setup — your cloud configuration should be personalized to meet your firm’s requirements.
10 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Cloud Budget
Your firm’s cloud budget has some obvious and non-obvious differences from a traditional IT budget. Here are tips to ensure you are getting the most productivity and security — for the least cost — in the cloud.
- Review your environment to determine where things can be consolidated, updated or replaced. Old methods of building out a multitude of separate servers for redundancy are not necessarily needed with today’s processing power and the ability to use cloud servers much more efficiently than the former on-premises hardware.
- Review your applications annually or biannually to see if a vendor-hosted platform is a better alternative. Using a vendor’s platform relieves the burden of maintaining and securing your own cloud environment and puts that protection on the vendor. Do not forget to check vendor security certifications before making a decision.
- Review all storage. Most of the time “dead weight” storage gets ignored when it sits on-premises because it is not really costing you much other than a larger network storage device. Cloud storage is a bit different and can be categorized based on immediate need or simply occasionally needed. Develop a retention and destruction policy of data if you have neglected that. You should continually review your storage at least annually. Many cloud vendors offer cheaper alternatives for archive storage that should be considered for data that is no longer accessed frequently. Or you can simply archive data off of the cloud to cold storage.
- Understand the cost of managing your existing environment — a cloud infrastructure may require redesigning your in-house IT. More often, with a cloud infrastructure, you only need good help-desk support, which means you can reduce or redeploy your overall network support. Since security threats are rising, you can repurpose those resources to focus more on cybersecurity and client security audits. The firm should maintain a person or people responsible for technology to make sure periodic reviews are being made of any changes needed.
- Make sure to get help outside the firm from partners that have experience with cloud migrations and can tailor service for you. Not all cloud vendors will do this; some simply offer a packaged solution. With many legal applications moving to their own hosted platforms, however, firms can be scaled to a more appropriate cloud infrastructure based on their practice needs and hybrid workforce needs.
- Make sure the cloud vendor has the appropriate security protocols in place. You should have good endpoint protection that goes beyond standard antivirus protection, two-factor authentication and firewall protection within your own cloud environment.
- Be clear on who has ownership or control over your environment should you and your vendor part ways. If your cloud vendor controls your cloud account, you may end up with one large external hard drive of data, and it can be costly to rebuild a new network somewhere else.
- Fully understand the impact connectivity has on a remote workforce. If decisions are made to house all resources in the cloud, it is obviously critical that all employees have viable access to those resources with dependable internet access and even contingency plans in place for outages. This is particularly important with a hybrid workforce.
- Never neglect cybersecurity concerns. Make sure you keep security requirements in place and know how your cloud data is secured. Remember that cybersecurity is not a “set-it-and-forget-it” proposition. Cybersecurity plans require extremely vigilant oversight and constant updating.
- Do not forget to factor in space and environmental costs. Many firms are downsizing in terms of office and storage space. Migrating to the cloud may mean they no longer need large server rooms with dedicated air-conditioning.
Like anything else, putting your firm in the cloud is not just a one-time task. You need to set regular reviews and audits. Technology is still changing, whether it is on-premises or in a cloud environment.
Understanding Cloud Operating Expenses
Cloud budgeting requires a different financial approach to your cost of ownership. You are no longer building out capital expenses every few years but instead using ongoing operating expenses to run your firm’s IT.
Make sure your firm’s management understands the difference in the operating expense model of the cloud early in the conversation. And know that it could take some time to see the actual return and lower costs of ownership. In the end, however, being in the cloud offers firms more flexibility, more security and much easier scalability.
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