Speaker Key: PB: Phil
Brown, DW: David Whelan
PB: Hi, it's Phil Brown. I'm here
with David Whelan and we're going to talk about cloud computing. So, the first
question, I guess, would be what is cloud computing?
it depends, I guess, on what you define as the cloud. Most people will come out
with a basic definition that the cloud is something that's hosted outside of
your network on someone else's computers. So it could be your Flickr photos, it could be your legal research with
LexisNexis or Westlaw,
but it's something that you used to have inside your office and now you're
PB: And would that include e-mail and other
things like that?
DW: Absolutely. And I think people probably
don't realise that they're using the cloud already when they are using Google Mail or they're using Hotmail. But that really is
the same sort of thing, where before they might have had the e-mail system on
their computer and the e-mail would download, now they access it through a web
PB: So essentially, just to clarify the bit about the
e-mail, their e-mail is stored on a server outside their office, which is
essentially what makes it part of the cloud.
DW: Right, and
that's really one of the benefits. I think one of the other ways you can look at
the cloud is that if you use Microsoft
Office on your desktop and people have suggested using the cloud for
creating documents, you don't really need to do that, you can continue to use
Microsoft Office but you might use Dropbox
for storage into the cloud. So the cloud can act as a place where you put
things as a backup to your in-office technology.
PB: And when you
put it in the cloud, I mean, one of the benefits of putting something in the
cloud or storing something in the cloud is essentially you can access it from
anywhere in the world if you had an internet connection.
PB: And of course to go along with that
theory is the issue of potential security and other people might be able to
access that same information.
DW: Yes, and I think that's the
big hang-up, is that lawyers with confidentiality issues and privacy issues
with the information they're putting out into the cloud, really have to have a
good understanding of where that information is sitting.
PB: And, I guess, the other issue is not just where it's sitting but
how did it get there?
PB: Because it
could be routed through 40 other countries before it actually arrived at its
DW: Exactly, and I think in some ways you can
say it's safe to go with the big names, going with Google or going with
Microsoft and its Web
Apps or Office 365
because at least you know it's a brand name that is well known. As you get
to smaller companies, or particularly when you start to deal with cloud
technology that has been built specifically for lawyers, you're dealing with
smaller companies that may be hard to know exactly where they keep their
information, how you are accessing it and how they are taking care of it when
you're not accessing it.
PB: One of the things, David, I want to
talk about is software, the concept of software
as a service, instead of loading software onto your computer. What's that
DW: Well, you can compare it to sites like Dropbox where
all you're doing is uploading files and you're storing them. There is nothing
really going on. With software as a service you are really taking software from
your computer and taking those features and accessing them on a website. So
your word processor, your case management program, your calendar, all of those
sorts of things, and then the software exists out on the server. You don't keep
any software on your local computer and you primarily access it through a web
PB: And one of the advantages of that would be, you're
not loading any software onto your computer, you're not subscribing to updates,
get buying new software the next year and uploading the newest thing. All of
that's done on the back end by the company maintaining the software.
DW: Right. And that can be a real advantage for a solo or small firm
because you don't have to find yourself falling behind on the benefits or the
features in a particular application. It's always kept up to date for you.
PB: And typically, I should mention, there's a monthly fee associated
per lawyer or per assistant who is using that sort of service.
DW: Right. And I think that's probably one of the bigger changes for
lawyers buying technology, is that normally you pay a price and then you own
that information or that technology. Now you would be paying a subscription.
The benefit of that, though, is that if you have a technology budget, or even
more importantly if you haven't, this will help you to plan your technology
budget because you will have subscription costs for each month for your year.
PB: Right, and one of the things we should talk about, I guess,
is the potential downside of the software as a service kind of subscription. 3
DW: Right, and it's not just your internet connection isn't
available some day or that the provider is out of contact for a day or two;
their servers go down, for example, but it's really what happens if there is a
catastrophe or the business is gone.
PB: There are a number of
practice management software businesses out there that provide this service and
a lot of fairly new players who have just come up in the last year or two who
might be under-capitalised, and I guess that's one of the things you don't know
DW: Yes, and I think that it's a real challenge
because on the one hand you can take advantage of being out in the cloud. I
think it provides practitioners a lot of flexibility in how they practise, but
when you start to get away from the bigger name companies or the better known
companies, or the companies even who maybe aren't as well known but have been
around for a number of years, it begins to become more and more difficult to
find out which companies are going to be around for the long term.
PB: And then, of course, if the company does fold, you need to know
what's happening to your information and how you can recover it and what it's
going to cost you.
DW: Right. Software terms like Data Escrow and
Third Party Storage are becoming more popular with legal technology cloud
systems because you really want to make sure that someone else has that
information in case the company that is holding it for you in the first place
PB: And so, just to end, I guess, a possible
advantage of it would be something like the ability to travel with a clean
DW: Absolutely, yes, you could go across the border and
you wouldn't have to have anything but a web browser.
so you'd be able to access all of your information and all of your programs
through the software as a service over your internet, into the cloud but
nothing is stored on your computer.
DW: Thank you, Phil.