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Is using Cloud Storage the same as Document Management?

Posted by Manoj Kamath on 9 May 2018

I use Cloud Storage - Isn't that what document management means?


A matter of pride for most IT Managers at legal firms is that their implementation is at the forefront of technology adoption! They love the fact that it makes their firms lawyers leverage the latest and greatest of available technology to ease the pain of managing all the data and documentation that is required to keep their business running smoothly and away from difficult searches, protracted audits and other time-wasters that keep lawyers away from their clients. After all, the firm cannot bill for the lawyers time spent in retrieving documents (nor, the staff's time who do this on the lawyers behalf, right?)

However, the long lag between the development in cloud technology has left many firms across Canada with their own file servers that are also outdated.

That's not a surprise considering these important facts:

  1. Processing Power increases 4x every 18 months (the 1990's super computer is now on the iPad and kids complain that is slow?)
  2. Storage capacities increase 2x every 8 months (We now have 10 and 12 TB hard drives that can store all of the published information from 300 BCE to right now!)
  3. Free (and indeed low cost) Cloud Storage is enough for a medium sized IT Firm for several years worth of matters (15 GB of data Free! with Google, 5 GB with Apple*)
  4. Businesses do not need to upgrade either processors or storage for 3-5 years, if not more (Why spend all the revenues after tax, getting more technology equipment?)

We see this scenario play out repeatedly:

  • A law firm's local file server reaches its end-of-life and has become a headache to maintain.
    • Should we buy a new 10 TB hard drive for $499?
    • I have only 4 slots on my PC for Hard drives,and we have 4 in them!
    • Should I buy 4 new ones for $2000?
    • What do we do with the old ones?
    • Will I be able to transfer everything over in the same way the documents are stored today?
  • It needs to be planned so meticulously that its not worth spending time over.

So the firm looks to the cloud to modernize its file storage and document management. It would be great to get rid of that server and be able to access documents from anywhere. A quick (of course) search for solutions often leads the firm to "public cloud" services like DropBox, OneDrive, or Box. The firm then "upgrades" to one of these consumer-grade cloud storage services, only to find it woefully lacking in functionality, security, and reliability.

Consumer cloud storage services, such as DropBox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and Box are designed for home and consumer use, not for businesses, and certainly not for the sophisticated needs of law firms.

Most of these products:

1. Lack the structure or are not "matter-centric". They soon become unorganized dumping grounds for files and folders, leaving organization to the discretion of each member of the firm.

2. Lack security and compliance. Many of these services do or can replicate your data to overseas datacenters, creating data sovereignty and ethical issues. Add to that, most services lack the document audit trails required by some compliance standards. (Read our last newsletter on GDPR? No? Subscribe now!)

3. Lack document management features beyond simple storage, (read version control, indexing, search, and more.)

4. Attempt to sync data to each user's computer. A fundamental problem with all of these services is they attempt to synchronize to each of your user's computers. This works okay for a couple of people, but when you get to more than a few users, the synchronization becomes inefficient and inconsistent, leading to inconsistencies in data from one person's computer to another. (Imagine a matter being synced to several lawyers who are not even working on that matter!)

Consumer-grade services are great for personal use, quick-and-dirty storage, and sharing of files. (Even I use Google Drive and Apple Cloud for certain personal cloud storage needs. Notice how I maintain 2 accounts? They are best for certain types of data and workflows!!) But they are not robust, they don't scale well, and they lack features required to integrate seamlessly with most law firms workflows.

What matters is the functionality your law firm requires. Functionality varies with the type of matters you consult on & the number of clients you have.

A true Document Management System, or DMS, will include:

1. Matter-centric document storage & management. (each matter stored separately, securely and with access controls)
2. Email management: Saving emails to a matter, just like any other document. (Used OneNote recently? Yeah!)
3. Microsoft Office Integration: Saving documents directly to your DMS from the Office suite. (Convenient right? Our children use it with Edsby. Why not you?)
4. Indexing & Search: Indexing is the key to quickly locating a specific document. (Never searched high and low for a file you cannot remember the name for?)
5. Version Management: See, compare, and restore prior versions of a document. (Version control on scanned copies!)
6. Check-In/Check-Out: Checking-out a document prevents other users from modifying it while you are working on it. (Multiple edits on the same document anyone?)
7. Favorite & Recent Documents: Quickly access your favorite and recent- documents.
8. Document Profiling or Tagging: Tag or code documents as different types, such as contracts, motions, pleadings, and so forth. (Like this blog!)
9. Document alerts: Receive notifications when a specific document is updated or changed. (Love this, don't you?)

If your law firm needs any of these features, you need a true Document Management System.

Want to learn more about Document Management?

Call Manoj @519-974-3028 x6093 / Paul @ 519-792-8930 for a no cost, no obligation Office Technology Assessment today. We will help tailor a solution for your specific needs.

Author:Manoj Kamath
About: Manoj works with the legal community in Windsor, Essex, Chatham-Kent and Sarnia to provide the best of technology innovation to boost legal productivity and lower lifetime costs, making legal eagles more profitable making the world go around even more smoothly, in Windsor-Essex.
Connect via:LinkedIn
Tags:Technology UpdatesCloud StorageDocument ManagementDropboxOneDriveBoxGoogle DriveMatters

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