Web-based software is continuing to gain in popularity and usage among attorneys. My firm uses several of these in our daily practice, including Rocket Matter (case management / time & billing), gMail (firm email), and Evernote (electronic filing / storage system). If you hear the terms "the cloud" and "SaaS" but aren’t quite sure what all the fuss is about, you can find out everything you need to know in the following article:
Understanding "The Cloud": The Pros and Cons of Web-based Software for Attorneys
If you’ve attended a technology CLE or read a technology publication over the last year, chances are good you’ve at least heard of "the cloud" or cloud computing. Cloud computing is a term that’s used to describe a spectrum of services, software, and infrastructure delivered over the web rather than installed on a user’s computer or server.
One of the better-known forms of cloud computing is software as a service (or "SaaS"). SaaS aims to mirror (or even improve on) the experience of traditional software without requiring the user to buy expensive software licenses, struggle with complicated installations, or manage upgrades and updates.
SaaS has proven both popular and controversial among attorneys. While some have adopted it wholeheartedly and swear they’d never go back, others have chosen to steer clear, claiming the risks outweigh the benefits.
To help you better understand SaaS and to decide whether it has a place in your practice, here are a few of the pros and cons:
- It "just works." With SaaS, you avoid the headaches of installation and maintenance. As long as you have an Internet connection and a web browser (like Internet Explorer), using your software is as simple as logging in. Furthermore, most SaaS products have been built with usability as a high priority, making them easy to learn and use.
- Mac friendly. Because SaaS products operate through the web browser, they usually run just as well on a Mac as they do on Windows.
- Lower up-front costs. Add the price of software licenses, new servers and other hardware, and the hourly rates of the consultants needed to put it all together, and buying traditional software can be tremendously expensive. Most SaaS products require a relatively low monthly fee for each user and can be cancelled at any time.
- Mobility. Traditional software is tied to the computer it’s installed on. If you don’t have your computer with you, you don’t have your software. With SaaS, your software is available anywhere that you have an Internet connection–your home, a relative’s home over the holidays, even the train via a Smartphone. This can be particularly helpful if you’re forced from your office due to a natural disaster like a flood or hurricane.
- Lack of control. You, and your data, are at the mercy of your vendor. If the vendor suddenly goes out of business or goes offline for any reason, you could find yourself without access to your client files and unable to work. Similarly, the security of your data is entirely in the hands of your vendor–a significant concern for attorneys.
- Internet is a necessity. If your web connection goes down, you lose access to your software and your files. If you live in an area where your web connection is unreliable, SaaS may not be a realistic option.
- Lack of features. Most SaaS products are newcomers to the legal market, and as such their features are limited. Traditional software developers have spent years–even decades–adding features and functionality to their products.
If you’re ready to learn more about SaaS and want to know what kind of questions to ask when evaluating a SaaS vendor, visit the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center’s FYI: Software as a Service (SaaS) for Lawyers.
Source: Joshua Poje, ABA Legal Technology Resource Center