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Why Legal is Embracing the Cloud – Part I

The Era of Cloud Computing

The Internet has clearly been the primary driving force in software evolution for the past decade. Cloud computing is one of the most visible results. Due to the rapid pace of hosting, availability and security innovation, adoption of cloud computing is frankly booming. In fact, it would be difficult to argue that cloud computing hasn’t been one of the biggest changes in both personal and business computing since the World Wide Web started its path to ubiquity in the mid-90s.

Adjectives like nimble, flexible, accessible, dependable, scalable, easy-to-use, and, of course, cost-effective are often used - and not just by vendors’ marketing departments - to characterize the post-deployment experience. The cloud has enabled companies willing to adopt SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) offerings to outsource increasingly critical parts of their IT infrastructure. This choice frees up oft-limited IT resources for innovation, while enabling them to leverage core competencies. The net result is more attention on what they do best.

It Began with Consumers

Many consider the growth of the consumer cloud, driven by Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter and others, as catalysts for the awareness, acceptance and adoption of business-oriented cloud options. As the consumer cloud has boomed, the concerns of many management and technical staff, in particular, have dissipated amidst the rising adoption inside large corporations of SaaS-centric vendors like Salesforce, Evernote, Atlassian, and ZenDesk.

Cloud Traction Within the Enterprise

With cloud offerings having crossed the threshold for adoption across the enterprise, here are some of the areas, formerly fiefdoms of on-premise software, where the cloud has made inroads; HR, Sales, Marketing, Operations (areas such as order and inventory management), Finance (from payroll outsourcing to easier regulatory compliance), as well as Legal applications (e.g. contract automation, enterprise risk management, and IP management).

IT departments have embraced the cloud for multiple reasons: from driving efficiency, productivity, and growth, to improving employee experience and ensuring post-disaster recovery. Additionally, any department using remote staff or whose staff is mobile and frequently out of the office is a good prospect.

Not everyone is convinced, though. Sometimes a little FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) take hold.

Don’t Believe The FUD: Cloud Computing Myths

A pro-cloud argument would be incomplete without busting some of the myths that prevent people from taking a close look and improving their business processes. While satisfying your availability, scalability, data security, and user acclimation concerns is logical, don’t let assumptions about them prevent you from even asking questions. Here are some of the myths.

Availability and Uptime

One of the most common concerns, it’s obvious to both users and providers. If you can’t access the application, you’re stuck. SaaS vendors invest a huge amount of resources to ensure that you can reach their applications reliably and consistently because their entire business model depends on it. The result is that unplanned downtime is a rare occurrence for enterprise-worthy applications that typically deliver availability rates exceeding 99.9%.

The Learning Curve

Whenever a company adopts a new technology or application, the learning curve can be steep and productivity impacted. SaaS can be easily rolled out progressively to prevent long period of inertia as employees struggle to become productive. Upgrades to most SaaS applications are frequent and iterative, which prevents productivity losses when massive upgrades radically change an application UI or UX. Who hasn’t experienced this in the past?

Scalability

Adding new users, offices, suppliers and customers shouldn’t be an impediment to growth.  When you’re researching software vendors, including SaaS options, ask about how they handle growth - primarily yours, not theirs. A key reason why the cloud handles scalability well is that there is a common, cost-effective infrastructure in which the individual companies and users benefit from the investment in an entire platform and application. SaaS revenue models are frequently based on the number of user accounts, so ensuring that customers can grow their user accounts is a requirement for any SaaS vendor to be successful.

Data Security

The data security issue is similar to availability - it’s a fundamental requirement without which a SaaS vendor will shut its doors. Vendors must adhere to a plethora of industry best practices to grow. They consequently invest a lot in security people, processes and technology to protect their servers and data paths.

Stability

Stability, the likelihood that a vendor will be in business next month or next year, and able to service its customer base, is something you need to investigate. It shouldn’t imperil any SaaS implementation plans unless the vendor fails the same due diligence you would pursue with any vendor. This means researching non-trivial issues such as financial strength, market leadership and traction, history of innovation and customer successes, as well as some of the issues listed earlier, like stability and security history.

Generally speaking, the SaaS model provides a better foundation for a vendor's long-term stability than the traditional software licensing model. In the traditional model, the vendor receives a significant amount of money upfront for the software license, and only a relatively small ongoing maintenance fee for providing customer support and software updates. When sales of new licenses slow, such as in an economic downturn, the vendor can become financially challenged. The recurring revenue model of SaaS provides more stability, as well as more incentive for the vendor to stay invested into the customers' success.

Ready to bust these cloud myths? Do your research. Organize what you learn. Get serious about researching how the cloud can help your Legal/IP department increase efficiency and productivity. How you could finally abandon that unloved docketing system that you have been stuck with since the 1990's and gain more independence from your corporate IT department, all while lowering your total cost of ownership.

We’ll tackle the specific benefits of managing your IP assets in the cloud in Part Two of this post.

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