Practice management systems in the cloud (2)

In the last issue, we provided contributions from DPS, Eclipse, Iris, LawCloud and LexisNexis. Here we continue with four more key suppliers.

Linetime are a leading supplier of practice, case and matter management systems with 30 years experience of the legal sector. Clients range from mid tier firms through to top 50 practices. Years of experience servicing volume legal service providers has resulted in a software suite well placed to compete in the new ABS world.

Linetime software has been offered as a hosted / cloud solution for the last 4 years and prior to this was available as a managed service. Users of the service benefitted from a rolling program of continuing software and hardware updates without any capital expenditure.

There have over the years been varying interpretations of cloud computing but is it really new? 25 years ago firms rented out time on their mainframes to use applications such as payroll. Access was by modem with the service provider providing the central hardware, application and software updates. Perhaps the cloud is just an existing good idea modernised and repackaged?

There is a lot of interest around software/service in the cloud but there is also a hesitance in making the transition. There has been debate over data protection issues and also a general reticence to be early adopters. For law firms making the transition to the cloud they soon benefit from fully managed services with solutions that can be scaled up and down as their own business needs dictate. This makes forecasting costs simpler with a simple extrapolation of a cost per user.

Time will tell as to the extent of the appetite for cloud solutions. Current interest suggests firms are sold on the idea of a simple pay as you use model that keeps them up to date with technologies. Cloud, hosted, managed service or traditional purchase, Linetime’s software model is adaptable to suit each individual client.

Kathryn Holmes,

Pracctice Ltd was formed in 1988 to provide computerised accounting software to law firms. Osprey.TM was launched as a full function web based application nearly 8 years ago. As a result we now have thousands of lawyers running on a web hosted basis and have many years’ experience in providing Cloud Computing to the UK Legal Market and beyond.

Osprey.TM is offered on a full multi tenanted, co-location, hosted basis (defined as level 4 of 4 for SaaS Maturity by Microsoft). This is far more economical and beneficial for the end user than just hosting a server remotely, which offers little or no benefit over an in house server and is not really Cloud Computing.

We own and run our own datacentres (essential for client due diligence) which are all based in the UK (essential for data protection).

I use the term Web or Internet Based technology as it is more accurate and cannot be adopted by suppliers offering older style technologies as easily. If you can log on to a web page on the internet, from anywhere and without any prior set up and run the software in the same way as you would do any other web page it’s web based, if you can’t it’s not!

100 per cent of our business for the last 8 years has been on the basis of Osprey being supplied as a Web Based Application.

Due to the costs of providing true Web Based Software across multiple, real time mirrored, multi tenanted datacentres owned by the supplier, some suppliers may try to promote old fashioned installed software as “Cloud Computing” by simply setting up a server at their offices and a VPN connection. That’s not the same thing at all.

Matthew Lancaster,

Professional Technology was founded in 1986 to develop, supply & support a range of IT solutions for solicitors. Our Quaestor financial management and Seriatim case management systems have been developed over this time to be the best available.

Our hosted services, developed over the past 2 years, provide legal practices with the latest technology without heavy investment in hardware or software licenses. Both Seriatim and Quaestor can be provided on a hosted basis along with the latest versions of Microsoft Office and Microsoft’s Exchange Server mailboxes.

The terms “Cloud”, “Hosted” and “Software as a Service (SaaS)” seem to be used interchangeably but they are different.

Our hosted service provides a “Private Cloud” environment exclusive to the practice where their data is completely secure. Secure user regions within the environment allow confidential information to be stored on a per user basis and we also provide the practice with workspace for all their staff to share. Data is stored only in UK data centres and replicated between two sites in London & Manchester as well as being backed up overnight.

Industry standard “Cloud” services provide computing on demand with processing taking place and data being stored at any of the provider’s data centres anywhere in the world. Whilst inherently less secure than a private cloud solution there are ways of securing data and we are working on systems to utilise standard cloud computing for the next release of our software.

Whilst there will always be a market for on-premise solutions, paying only for the computing you use is likely to be the way forward. Hybrid systems utilising some on-premise and some cloud services are probably the immediate way forward with a transition to full cloud solutions as the technology becomes more available.

Alan Farley,

Quill Pinpoint is a privately owned company offering software and outsourced services for over 35 years. With an initial focus on outsourced legal cashiering, a service for which Quill Pinpoint is best known, the expanded portfolio includes hosted practice management software.

Quill Interactive contains features for in-house legal accounts, time recording, reporting, matter and document management. It has evolved from a locally installed application to one hosted in the cloud, made possible by heavy investment in software and data centre development.

The terminology relating to hosted systems is varied but the meaning is the same – it’s a secure, internet-based shared resource for remote availability to IT applications, matter files and data through a rentable, scalable, on-demand payment model.

Of the 600+ Quill Interactive clients, over 350 are accessing via hosted delivery. The major benefits are mobility (any time, any place access), resilience (robust and secure), value for money (no large capital outlay costs) and extended IT support (on-demand IT assistance). It’s a more efficient way to operate with the added bonus of business continuity.

The SRA Handbook makes continuity of services a mandatory requirement, so law firms must consider disaster recovery and emergency planning. As a result of the recently enforced regulations, interest in Quill Interactive is growing amongst clients looking to migrate to a hosted delivery platform and potential clients seeking a compliant practice management solution.

The shift away from a focus on personal computers to cloud services is already underway. Firms are upgrading to a virtual environment to plan for the future and manage their SRA-defined responsibilities. Practices must overcome concerns about the potential risks of moving to the cloud by performing due diligence on service providers. Reassuringly, Quill Interactive incorporates sound security measures, back-up procedures and encryption processes with accompanying service and support.

John Donigan,

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