On-Premise vs Cloud Hosting: What's Best for your Firm?

The decision to host your technology and database on-premise or in the cloud can be a challenging one for today’s legal firms. While the idea of migrating to the cloud is gaining more traction among many firms, there remains many benefits to hosting solutions on-premise. In this post, we highlight some of the pros and cons of each to help you decide which path is best for your firm.

On-Premise Hosting: Keep it Local for Control and Cost

On-premise hosting means installing and running software locally, on your firms’ servers and computers. This has many benefits:

  • Control. On-premise hosting gives your firm complete control. Since you’re running your own software programs and managing databases on internal servers, you and your IT team are responsible for all configurations, upgrades, system changes, and customizations. 
     
  • Uptime. On-premise hosting does not require internet access. Consider your current connectivity environment. Are you in a place where internet can be spotty or unreliable, perhaps in a rural area? An on-premise solution might provide a more consistent and reliable solution since you are not beholden to connectivity to maintain your operations, data, and systems.
     
  • Cost. When making a decision between the two hosting options, consider your firm’s budget. Many on-premise systems are based on a long-term, one-time license that is generally lower than the cost of cloud-hosting and software as a service (SaaS) solutions.

However, on-premise hosting also presents a few challenges:

  • Knowledge base. With on-premise hosting, your firm will be solely reliant on in-house or consultant knowledge of your system and data. Your firm is also responsible for all backups, application updates, cybersecurity, and routine maintenance. There is a risk of a knowledge leakage if expert staff with this knowledge leave your firm.
     
  • Backup. No one solution is risk-free. Even with best in breed on-premise hosting and in-house IT expertise, your firm will need to architect a disaster recovery and backup solution. In the event of a server crash, data breach, or other malicious activity, your firm will need to plan for and implement a robust cybersecurity and incident recovery plan.

Cloud Hosting: Increased Efficiency and Scalability with a Vendor

With cloud hosting, your software runs on external servers from a third-party vendor, which makes your data and systems accessible via a web browser. Many firms are making a shift to cloud-based hosting solutions. For example, in a 2017 Computerworld survey of IT managers and leaders, 79 percent of respondents said they have cloud projects underway or planned. Here’s a few of the key benefits of cloud-based hosting:

  • Increased mobility and efficiency. One of the key benefits of cloud hosting is the mobility it provides. Lawyers and staff at your firm will have access to programs and information through their browser, wherever they are, without the need to download applications on a physical computer. Ultimately, this helps your team work more nimbly, efficiently, and cost effectively.
     
  • Scalable. Cloud services are elastic and easily scalable. As your firm expands or takes on additional clients, you may need to add or access additional software resources. You can quickly scale your business in the cloud and add these additional tools and support as needed.
     
  • Predictable pricing. Since most cloud software is priced on a subscription basis, you know exactly how much to expect to spend each month. You can also spread costs out over 12 months, rather than paying annually. This is especially helpful for forecasting and budgeting at your firm.
     
  • Decreased downtime. Many cloud services are continually monitored by experts to reduce the risk of downtime at your firm. With most providers, your firm can rely on continual, 24/7 application monitoring to ensure continuity. Often, this service includes monitoring for malicious activity to catch incidents before they happen as well as to quickly resolve any incidents that do occur.

Despite the trend toward cloud-hosting, it’s not without its challenges. A few cons include:

  • Limited control. The key difference between on-premise and cloud hosting is who has control. One drawback of the cloud is that its success depends on reliable internet access, as well as reliable vendors. Your firm is limited in what you can do here because your databases and systems will run on external servers to which you don’t have access or control.
     
  • Less customizable. While cloud solutions are typically configurable to meet the needs of your firm, they may not be completely customizable to the extent you desire.

Keep Security Top of Mind

On-premise versus cloud hosting is an important decision for your firm and one that has data security implications. Today, about half of all cyberattacks target small businesses, and these attacks are occurring with greater frequency and sophistication. An article in Inc. suggests that the reasons for this are many. Small businesses and firms have valuable data, they may provide hackers access into larger enterprises, and they often lack adequate cybersecurity measures.

Chances are, your firm deals with sensitive or confidential information. A breach of your database or technology system can not only be costly for your firm, but it can also expose confidential customer information, imperil your reputation, and even shutter your operations.

Our expert team at N8 Solutions offers a range of network monitoring and support services to provide you with around-the-clock peace of mind, for both on-premise and cloud hosted solutions. For example, if you opt to host your data on-premise, we can help you keep tabs on your network activity, apply patches, troubleshoot, and maintain desktops and servers so that you can focus on what matters most: serving your clients and driving your firm forward. We can also help you protect your critical data to make sure your confidential client information is not only protected, but retrievable even during a network failure or other disaster.

Still Not Sure? We Can Help You Select the Best Path.

Chances are, you may still be unsure which way to tip the balance on on-premise versus cloud hosting. The decision may hinge on a number of measures, from the size of your firm and the location of your staff to your budget or IT resources to your own leadership or client preferences.

Don’t rule out a hybrid version either, in which some of your data and systems may be stored on-premise in legacy systems while other aspects of your firm are stored and managed in the cloud. In fact, some firms today utilize cloud and SaaS solutions as a sort of emergency “back-up” should their on-premise system need to go down for planned maintenance or should it fail or become compromised.

No matter which approach you take, you’ll want to ensure secure migration of your data from one hosting solution to another. Do you have the expertise on staff to do carry this out? Many cloud hosting vendors will offer this as part of their service; be sure to inquire about this before committing to a provider.

At N8 Solutions, we can help you think through some of the pros and cons of on-premise versus cloud hosting to identify the best path forward for your unique legal firm. We can also provide the robust cybersecurity and data migration you need to keep your firm up and running. Get in touch with us today!