When looking to move to the cloud, is there a difference between ‘cloud’ from one vendor to another? Yes, and the differences can be profound. The majority of providers use the purely browser-based technology to take you to the cloud, but, there are a few that go the extra mile and implement all the cloud benefits right into your desktop, into your existing applications, and the into the workflows that you use every day.
What is the cloud?
Simply put, cloud computing is computing based on the internet. Where in the past, people would run applications or programs from software downloaded on a physical computer or server in their building, cloud computing allows people access to the same kinds of applications through the internet.
When you update your Facebook status, you’re using cloud computing. Checking your bank balance on your phone? You’re in the cloud again. Chances are you rely on cloud computing to solve the challenges faced by small businesses, whether you’re firing off emails on the move or using a bunch of apps to help you manage your workload.
In short, cloud is fast becoming the new normal. But why are so many businesses moving to the cloud? It’s because cloud computing increases efficiency, helps improve cash flow and offers many more benefits - check out just five of the best below:
- No need for Servers. Cloud computing is capital expenditure free. No need to upgrade that server every few years when it is old, clunky or runs out of room. This also offers the flexibility to increase your requirements incrementally with no capital outlay.
- Work anywhere. Whether you are working from home, the court, the coffee shop or a hotel. You can access your information anywhere, any time.
- iPhone and Android apps. As the data is now in the cloud, you will be most likely to have access to an app on your phone – literally your data at your fingertips.
- Automatics Back-ups / Disaster recovery giving you peace of mind. Never worry about your back-up again. Your Cloud provider will take care of this and the risk to your business is outsourced and mitigated.
- Automatic upgrades and updates without shutting down a server or kicking everyone out. Everyone gets frustrated by this, and so most people never do it. Ensuring your software is up to date not only gives you the most recent features, but also ensures your data is secure and protected.
No small law firm can afford not to utilise the benefits of the cloud - but choosing a seemingly inexpensive and quick-start provider that only works through your web browser will cost you in unforeseen ways if you don’t know what you’re getting into. To avoid this easy mistake, here is some additional information worth considering before moving your business to the cloud.
Cloud software can be built into your desktop, not just the browser
This functionality is especially important to law firms, where staff spend so much of their day drafting documents, lodging forms, and dealing with email management. Over 98% of work produced from these areas is not connected to the browser – therefore most cloud products create a disconnect between how people work. Smokeball is cloud-based legal software that goes the extra mile.
Smokeball legal practice management software not only gives you the benefits listed above, but also provides:
- The ability to work off-line as well as online.
- Cloud functionality integrated to Microsoft Word and Outlook directly
- File and document management native to your operating system and not just through the browser
- Documents that can be downloaded and synchronised easily for access when out of the office
- The ability to upload hundreds or even thousands of documents a time, without grinding your web browser to a halt
Let’s look at these in more detail.
The ability to work off-line
We all know that the internet is not 100% reliable and not always available. Whether there is an outage at work, we are tethering to our phones, something happens in our street, or we are flying in the sky. The problem with cloud products tied to the browser is that when there is no internet, you are now 100% locked out of your data and work. This could be seconds, minutes, or even hours. This is a big (and frustrating) business risk.
Smokeball is what we call a “smart client” working in a hybrid cloud environment. This means that all your data and functionality work on your computer – whilst in the background all that data is syncing up to the cloud. Where there is no internet available – no problem. The sync will pause and resume when it finds the network again – and in the meantime you can keep working away producing documents, viewing your calendar, checking off tasks, recording time and getting work done. Smokeball is the only legal and conveyancing software on the market that delivers you this must-have functionality.
Integrated into Microsoft Word and Outlook directly
As cloud-based legal software providers came into the market, they gradually started taking you further and further away from the tools that you use every day. Those who have experienced the frustration of trying to open, create, edit and save documents and emails back to their browser-based software will understand exactly what I am saying.
Smokeball has functionality built directly into Microsoft Word and Microsoft Outlook. This allows you to get your work done quickly, accurately and easily when using these tools, with the data seamlessly saved back to your matter for everyone else in the firm to see.
Too many clicks! Savings and accessing documents without opening from the downloads directory
Let’s look at a common scenario. You have just drafted a letter to your client, it looks good. You save it to your desktop, open the browser, find your legal software, search for the matter, click on the documents tab, click “Add”, navigate to your desktop and to your file, and click Save. Excellent, now the document is done and in the cloud.
You then go back to Word to close it and realise you have made a typo in the first line. Damn! You fix the typo, typo, click Save, go back to the browser, go back to the matter, go back to the documents and click “Replace” on your existing file. That’s better.
This is a very common use-case, one that happens daily. The above workflow is a total of 18 clicks. If only you had a button, directly in Microsoft Word, that said Save. Right?
Smokeball is embedded right into Microsoft Word. You can open a document and click Save because there is a Smokeball Save button sitting right in your Microsoft Word toolbar. This will ask for your matter, and you are done. Made a mistake? Make the change and click Save again. The above workflow in Smokeball is only 4 Clicks. If we are talking productivity in clicks - it now takes 20% of the time to do the same job.
Download all documents on a matter at the click of a button, ready for being offline
Having all your documents and all the history of a matter available at your fingertips is essential. What happens when this is all in the cloud and internet connection is non-existent or unreliable at best?
Smokeball’s online/offline functionality makes it simple to automatically download all documents on a matter to a “Local” mode, so these are always available.
Upload hundreds or thousands of documents a time, without grinding your web browser to a halt
Very often law firms receive tens or hundreds or even thousands of documents from clients in relation to a matter that need to be saved and stored against that matter, and in the cloud. If you have ever tried saving 30 documents from your email to a browser-based legal or conveyancing software you will understand it is a clunky, slow, and painful task.
If you have ever received a USB with thousands of files in relation to, say, Discovery, and tried to upload these through your browser – you will not only have experienced slowness but often your browser will not cope, and will crash.
Smokeball’s document management is tied to the desktop – and syncs in the background to the cloud. We make it fast and easy for you to upload documents, and then send them up in the background as you continue to work, as fast as the internet allows, without slowing you down in your use of your computer.
Contact Smokeball to learn more about why all cloud technology is not built the same.
Every small law firm needs to be on the cloud. To ensure that your business rises above the rest, now is the time to find out why Smokeball is the right fit for you.
If you're interested in seeing how we do it, see a demonstration of Smokeball today.