Originally published September 28, 2020, by Bill Sorenson, VP of Product, Netgain at www.elite.com.
2020 has been painful at best—changing how law firms interact with clients, access core applications, files, and confidential information, and remain productive even when working remotely. With guidelines changing on a near-weekly basis, it’s hard to define what our “new normal” is or will be. But there are two things that shouldn’t be part of it: application performance delays and outages.
But if that’s exactly what you’re experiencing, you may believe that it’s just part of the COVID tax that comes from working remotely. The short answer is no. Instead, it’s a sign that your
current IT infrastructure is poorly equipped to handle current demands, and that’s a burden you don’t have to bear.
The truth is that you aren’t alone. While some firms were able to adjust very quickly, switching to an all-remote work environment with relative ease, many others struggled to maintain productivity and, in some cases, forced to maintain some onsite staff despite physical distancing recommendations.
What was the difference? Overwhelmingly for small to mid-sized firms with limited internal IT resources, we find that firms that have embraced the cloud for their IT needs were far more able to adapt quickly and enable their staff to work completely remotely.
Typically located onsite at the main office, on-premises IT environments rely on internally maintained servers, storage arrays arranged in a storage area network, and local backups. While such environments can support remote workers through remote connectivity, performance degrades quickly as employees have to connect back to the main office location to get their normal services.
Organizations with this footprint have had to resort to heroic efforts to try to immediately increase connectivity capacity while at the same time implement new hardware or configurations that would allow the capacity needed for everyone to work at home—all while trying not to disrupt what productivity the team was able to achieve.
In contrast, firms that have embraced the cloud as an integral, if not primary, part of their IT strategy had a significantly easier time adjusting to remote work. With cloud infrastructure, productivity is largely maintained (at least technologically) because the setup was already designed to support the number of employees working. Your team effectively sees no difference between working remotely or in the office, even when they are working with critical applications such as your document and case management systems or practice management solutions such as Firm Central and ProLaw®.
Taking the Fear of Change Out of Cloud IT
One way to deploy cloud IT is through virtual desktops or “workspaces” that mimic the desktops your team uses today. Following a migration (which for the majority of the firm will be practically invisible), firm partners often express surprise that their virtual desktop looks just as it did prior to the move.
Using virtual desktops eliminates the need to “retrain” staff to access things in a different way while ensuring a consistent and reliable performance experience for your team. It also significantly improves your firm’s security posture.
This spring, firms that relied on virtual desktops were able to focus on other huge issues related to the pandemic. This group immediately allowed their employees to work at home with minimal notice and provided a significant increase in cybersecurity capabilities, whether the employee was working on their own computer or a firm’s computer.
They could keep production up, address new needs of their clients, and focus on strategic direction for the firm in light of the economic environment. They weren’t distracted by IT issues, limitations, or security risks, but could concentrate on their clients and their business. This differentiation was huge in the response to this crisis.
Firms that have been experiencing poor performance and outages should reconsider their current IT environment. For practices with limited IT resources (perhaps just one or two IT staff, or in some cases none at all), cloud IT can seem daunting, especially in the midst of COVID-era distancing. But it doesn’t need to be.
Making the Switch
The flexibility needed for organizations in today’s world, during and post COVID-19, have significantly increased the focus on public cloud desktop solutions. The ability to have your work desktop hosted in the cloud and the ability for every employee to be able to get to that environment from anywhere has provided significant value to clients. With each user getting their own customized environment, secured with the industry’s best security, and delivered and managed by a trusted partner, cloud desktops deliver better than any other solution in the work-at-home environment.
To help with the process of setting up and managing your cloud IT, you can work with a managed services provider (MSP) that partners with you to understand your business and recommend the optimal setup, taking into account both business flexibility / needs and cost effectiveness. Such an approach often has the added benefit of freeing your internal team from time-consuming tasks such as software updates and hardware maintenance. Instead they can focus more of their time on high-value initiatives that align your IT strategy with your long-term firm vision.
It can seem daunting to switch out your IT infrastructure in the midst of a crisis, but for many organizations, the cost of NOT doing so is even greater. As we continue to navigate this crisis, unsure of when it will end, it has become critically important that we figure out how to be at our most productive during this time.