Written By Foo Juyuan
This article is part of the Legal Technology Manual, an initiative by the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL). It was first published here on 22 February 2018 and has been reproduced here with the kind permission of the author. Head over here for a list of articles contributed by LawTech.Asia members.
A. BENEFITS OF USING CLOUD-BASED STORAGE – AN INTRODUCTION
A lawyer works from the office, and he works from home. He goes to Court, and he makes site visits. A lawyer is never confined to just being in the offices of his firm. At these locations, a lawyer should be able to access all his law firm’s documents at any time, from anywhere, and on any device.
With a cloud-based storage system, the lawyers of a law firm will have the potential to view and edit documents conveniently. It helps provide the lawyer with seamless access to his client’s important data in the form of Word documents, PDFs, spreadsheets, photos, and any other digital assets from wherever the lawyer is. The lawyer no longer needs to be at his work PC to access his work files.
Cloud-based systems, including cloud-based document storage systems, are what some would argue more reliable than the software installed on the business’s own servers. Major cloud service providers invest a lot of resources in building and maintaining robust infrastructures. They promote their own servers as not only being secure, but reliable as well. Accordingly, downtime and problems are usually far less than managing one’s own in-house server. Furthermore, cloud-based software is usually protected by state-of-the-art information security systems, with some services even advertising their security as “military grade”.
B. RECOVERABILITY OF DATA
Having your data stored both “in the cloud” and off-site serves to enhance data recoverability. Cloud-based document storage solutions tend to have the feature to automatically back-up and sync your locally-stored data on the cloud system, increasing the convenience of recovering data should the user’s physical computer or hard-drive be damaged due to fire, flood, or theft. The recovery of data when a computer hard-drive crashes is either impossible or costly, not to mention valuable time wasted. Do note however that not all cloud-based storage solutions have their own back-up features, and those who do, are charged a premium.
Cloud-based systems and storage services are also inherently more scalable, in that there is potentially no limit to its storage capacity. For on-site servers and data storage facilities, a business will have to buy the server and the necessary software, and ensuring it is properly maintained by hiring an I.T. consultant. When the business reaches the limit of the storage capacity of its on-site server, the business has to pay again for an upgrade, which usually requires a change to the actual physical product. This in turn will require the migration of existing data, costing the business even more money and wasted time.
Cloud-based solutions, on the other hand, are theoretically infinitely scalable. The physical servers for these cloud-based solutions are maintained and improved by the service providers themselves. At present, most cloud-based storage providers charge a monthly flat fee per-user, and a law firm can easily add (or remove) users at any time, with costs adjusted incrementally. Instead of having multiple user accounts, some law firms may choose to share a single high-capacity account to save costs.
Commonly used or available cloud storage services include: Microsoft OneDrive, Microsoft Sharepoint, Dropbox, Box.com, Google Drive/Google Backup & Sync.
However, handing data off to a public cloud provider poses security and privacy concerns. While there is no expressed prohibition of the use of cloud computing in a law firm’s operations, law firms should take note of the Law Society of Singapore’s Council Guidance Note 3.4.1 on Cloud Computing dated 10 March 2017, available for download here.
Finally, it is important to note that cloud-based document storage systems are different from cloud-based document management systems. The main difference is that the former functions largely as a “warehouse” for documents and do not provide any document management functionality, for example version tracking, content-tagging and categorization, etc.
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 Major cloud-providers provide a service level agreement of 99.9% availability