Several businesses are asking questions about moving to The Cloud vs. using their Local Server for Software Applications. Are you wondering which path you should take? Legal technology expert Nancy Griffing shared some of her insights to help you make your decision.
First, let’s define some relevant terms:
Local Network: The server(s) and the software reside on a network infrastructure in your office location. The software lives onsite with you every day.
Hosted Network: Your server(s) and network live in the Cloud. There are hosted solution companies that specialize in certain industries and have experience with installing and upgrading specialized applications. However, hosting companies do require compliance with their standardized approach to networking and may or may not support certain legacy applications. For a boutique approach, you and your IT professionals can build a customized network in a secured location such as Amazon Web Services (AWS). In both situations, your virtual network is accessible from anywhere. Both premise-based software and hosted applications can be launched from you virtual network.
Hosted Application: The software application itself is hosted and accessed through a browser protected by secured access. Everything your business needs is in the cloud. You may choose to keep redundancy in your office for documents and data, but on a day-to-day basis access to your software is independent of the local network. Instead, all of your data is accessible through the hosted application. Some applications, such as Centerbase, include time, billing, accounting, and practice management all in one application. When paired with a rigorous document management system such as NetDocuments, a business can be entirely cloud-based without compromising security, redundancy, profiling, searching and workspace sharing with outside parties.
Pros and Cons of Premise-Based Software and Hosted Applications:
Pros: Most premise-based software has been around for a long time. It is software with which most businesses are familiar and comfortable. Knowing that a software works for you and your clients is very important.
Cons: Premise-based software can sometimes lack redundancy. Information is in one place, on one server. Of course, this can be mitigated by a strong redundancy plan, but you also run the risk of catastrophic loss if something happens to a server that has not been backed up properly. If you decide to host your network, however, then you have peace of mind about redundancy. Additionally, you will need a skilled IT team to resolve issues that arise from local functions like printing, scanning, document/data transfer and data copy within a hosted environment.
Pros: Having your complete primary functions fully integrated into one system accessible through a browser or app is true freedom. Conveniently, there is no downtime for upgrades or updates to the system. Various functions can be split to multiple screens, if the application supports it, to allow you to have timekeeping on one monitor, accounting on another and matter management on a third. All access is remote, but if the application supports advanced security features such as two-factor authentication, forced passwords changes, federated identity and encryption at rest and in transit, then you can rest assured that your information is safe. Financially, a virtual application may be a good investment for a business with multiple offices because additional costs are user-based. So, instead of having to buy a new server for every office, you can just add users as your company grows.
Cons: Leaving your premise-based solution runs the risk of losing all of the features you have come to depend that may not be part of a hosted application. Some newer applications may have wonderful curbside appeal and but ultimately carry no substance. The tried and true premise solutions, on the other hand, have had time to mature. Existing in a virtual environment also means that access to your information is completely dependent on access to the Internet. Although Internet connection is standard in most offices, this could be problematic if Internet access is unpredictable. Although there is a reduced capital investment for hardware every few years your cost is also affected as you still must pay for individual workstations. Finally if you are interested in storing legacy software or documents, you may have to purchase some additional storage or create an internal storage plan for your business.
A Note on Cost:
The costs shown above were calculated for a 10-user firm. Although it may seem that a hosted application charged monthly per user would be the most expensive solution, when you consider the value of built-in redundancy, hardware, and maintenance the cost savings is actually significant. No matter which path you chose, you will still have workstation services and local storage maintenance, so don’t remove those ongoing costs from your annual budget.
Picking the right software solution for your business is not as simple and straightforward as it may seem. Taking everything I mentioned into consideration and asking the right questions before you commit to a solution is crucial. Ultimately, your business needs to pick the right software before you pick the network infrastructure, and 35★45 Consulting® can help you every step of the way. With our expertise, we can help you make a software decision that best fits your business and determine the most cost effective way for you to remote commute. Let us do the technological legwork so you can focus on growing your business.