By now, law firms have moved most, if not all, of their applications and data storage to cloud-based platforms. Those who moved before the pandemic were prepared, and the disruption proved minimal to normal business operations. Those who moved after are catching up and will be ready for whatever the future holds for their business operations.
Today, law firms want to make sure they are maximizing their budget for cloud-based operations. Getting the best bang for your buck in the cloud requires careful thought and planning as there’s no one-size-fits-all set-up. Instead, a law firm’s cloud configuration is personalized to each organization and its requirements.
How can firms work to maximize their cloud budgets? It starts with identifying necessary and unnecessary applications. Differentiate critical applications from nice-to-haves and look at possible new applications that may incorporate more functions. Then, firms should review and minimize on-premises hardware requirements. They should also maintain warranties and service for critical hardware and decommission what is no longer needed. Finally, in addition to the on-premises cost of ownership, don’t forget to factor in space and environmental costs. Many firms are downsizing space and may no longer need large server rooms with dedicated air-conditioning if they migrate to the cloud.
This approach is effective because cloud budgeting requires a different financial approach to a firm’s cost of ownership. You no longer are building out capital expenses every so many years, but instead using ongoing operating expenses to run your firm’s IT. You can adjust all aspects of IT when you consider the cloud—not just infrastructure—but also staff requirements.
Make sure you understand what your impacts are with your former capital expenditures and total cost of ownership and what you will be eliminating. Rather than having big bulky expenditures in one fiscal year, you are now spreading out the cost year after year. This may even out your IT spending and cause less disruption to budgeting for major overhauls that occur in cycles.
How to implement this approach for budgeting
First, review your environment as it exists and determine where things can be consolidated, updated, or possibly replaced. Sometimes old methods and approaches of building out a multitude of separate servers for redundancy aren’t necessarily needed with today’s processing power and the ability to migrate/upgrade cloud servers much more efficiently and quickly than in the former on-premises days. You do not need to design a cloud infrastructure like your current on-premises design.
Second, review all storage. Most of the time you have ignored ‘dead weight’ storage because it is sitting on-premises 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.
Finally, understand the cost of management of your existing environment as a cloud infrastructure may require a redesign of your in-house IT support.
Steer clear of pitfalls
When preparing your cloud plan and budget, watch out for the following issues that might come up:
- Internet speed, reliability, and redundancy. Your primary office space should have better than best-effort connections, which typically are cable internet providers. An Internet service provider with service level agreements of guaranteed uptime is a must. You should also consider high availability when relying on cloud connectivity. That means redundancy in your internet service providers, switches, and firewalls, so there is no single point of failure that can cause you to be disconnected from the cloud.
- Make sure the cloud vendor you are considering has the appropriate security protocols in place. You should have good endpoint protection that goes beyond standard anti-virus protection, two-factor authentication, and firewall protection within your own cloud environment.
- Be clear on who has ownership and/or control over your environment should you or your vendor decide to 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 that 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 working from home.
- 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 “fire-and-forget” proposition. The cybersecurity plan requires extremely vigilant oversight and constant updating.
Make sure your firm management understands the difference in the operating expense model of the cloud early in the conversations. Know that it could take some time to see the actual return and lower costs of ownership. In the end, the cloud offers more flexibility, more security, and much easier scalability.