Like so many industries, the legal sector has become increasingly reliant on its own specific technology stack - a collection of software and applications delivered via a mix of on-premise and cloud-based solutions.
The performance of this IT environment has become fundamental to the performance of the law firm - yet as the technology stack grows bigger and bigger, it can become a major headache to ensure it is supported effectively.
The evolving collection of applications not only means dealing with multiple vendors, but also presents a challenge in ensuring your underlying IT platform is resilient enough to provide access to your technologies with minimum (ideally zero) downtime.
In this article, we explore the key issues Legal IT managers face in managing the software stack, and look at how these challenges can be overcome.
The limitations of on-premise software
Unlike other industries that are well-served by Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications, many technologies supporting the legal sector are still deployed as on-premise solutions. On-premise software has some well-documented drawbacks, but the problems can really add up if your firm operates across multiple sites. Maintenance of these applications can be a real problem for IT managers, especially if they are ageing, legacy applications.
Some firms choose a site from which to host the software centrally, then enable a wide area network (WAN) to connect all users into the application. However, this requires significant investment in bandwidth, and the challenge multiplies with every user and every application run in this way.
Mobility is the other major question mark with on-premise solutions. Law firm fee earners need to work on the move to stay productive, and while today’s applications are designed to allow flexible working, the right IT infrastructure is required to support mobile teams properly. If your solutions are built around on-premise working, mobility is something of an after-thought - and mobile or remote workers will often be let down by the performance of the technology.
Why upgrades aren’t always the answer
To escape the limitations of on-premise legal technology, many law firms have tried to upgrade their software, believing the only way to better mobility and performance is to move to a SaaS model. Yet you don't have to upgrade to a SaaS solution or invest in more on-premise infrastructure to get the most out of your existing applications.
A cloud desktop can enable the users of a firm to access all legacy on-premise software over the Internet in a single cloud environment. It can be extremely cost effective because it enables you to get more from your existing software assets - effectively moving to a SaaS model without having to upgrade.
Using VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) as a way of delivering cloud desktop can also provide a good user experience with older software working on newer devices. So, you can access that legacy piece of software on a on a state-of-the-art tablet and the user experience will still be smooth and intuitive.
Solving the support issue
Another concern for legal firms is both the availability and quality of the technical support provided across the software landscape. As your collection of applications proliferates, you are more likely to encounter issues - often getting caught between vendors and IT providers, with nobody taking responsibility for solving the problem at hand. With the two parties often blaming one another, issues can take too long to resolve - potentially leaving you without access to your case management system or another vitally important application for hours - sometimes even days.
Often, when a firm wishes to retain a vendor's software, the practice feels obliged to retain the managed IT services offered by the software company, too. However, as these vendors are software companies first and managed services providers second, the service side is not specialised and typically limited to remote support.
This support does not cover the physical network or infrastructure, meaning the provider doesn't have full line of sight of the issues - and therefore isn't best placed to resolve them. Indeed, when problems arise, these support providers are usually unable to go on-site to fix them.
Due to the resilience of the cloud, however, a VDI solution can significantly reduce the number of support issues you have to resolve when dealing with software that sits on-premise.
A growing technology stack and a burgeoning list of vendors brings as many challenges as it does opportunities. For law firms experiencing problems now, struggling on without action is simply unsustainable - as things will only become more complex and troublesome every time you bring a new application on board.
A cloud desktop solution is an effective way to solve the puzzle. Essentially a way to move towards a SaaS model without the expense of upgrading your existing software, it enables you to harness the mobility and productivity features of applications you already know and love, while simultaneously cutting down on the support issues that can harm your business performance.