June 17th, 2009 by The Clio Team
10 Things Every Lawyer Should Know About Legal SaaS (Part 2): Why (Or Why Not) Choose A SaaS Solution?
Nowadays the process of legal software selection is not a trivial undertaking, and these waters have only been muddied with the introduction of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) as a legitimate alternative to more traditional software offerings and platforms. Already burdened with complex feature comparisons and nuanced competitive offerings, many attorneys are now challenged to weigh the pros and cons of traditional solutions versus newer offerings delivered via the web. To help shed some light on the problem, the following will continue in the spirit of our first post, What is Software-as-a-Service?, and endeavor to explore the fundamentals of why (or why not) SaaS might be the right choice for your practice.
SaaS offers many advantages over traditional software applications, but in our view three stand out in our mind:
- Managed IT security and backups: Many of the primary concerns around SaaS center around the issues of privacy, security, and client confidentiality. However, we view this as one of the biggest advantages of SaaS. Many small businesses, solos, and small firms simply don’t have the resources to implement a comprehensive security and backup system. However, SaaS providers can leverage the economies of hosting clients for hundreds or thousands of customers and invest heavily in enterprise-class security and backup. Just as companies such as Iron Mountain can provide highly secure offsite document storage facilities that surpass the physical security and safety of most homes or offices, SaaS providers can provide a level of data security and redundancy that simply wouldn’t be economically viable to implement for a small business.
- Availability and mobility: Attorneys are frequently on the move, and increasingly seeking greater convenience in accessing their practice details and essential work tools when at home, at a client meeting, in court, while traveling, or any other time that might be necessary. SaaS applications are capable of offering an unprecedented level of mobility and connectivity across a broad range of platforms, meaning that, whether on a Mac, a PC, Linux, or even an iPhone users can gain access to their critical data from virtually anywhere.
- Lower Total Cost of Ownership: When purchasing traditional desktop software, the cost is typically only evaluated in the context of the off-the-shelf price, rather than the lifetime cost of ownership. In many cases there exists significant additional contributions to the total cost of a solution, including infrastructure upgrades and improvements, along with ongoing service and support contracts. Though there exists some legitimate debate as to whether SaaS is more cost efficient than traditional solutions as a long-term investment, there is little dispute over the generally superior affordability of SaaS due to it’s inherently low-priced monthly subscription model. Moreover, the web-based nature of most SaaS products minimizes the technical overhead which normally accompany traditional software products, requiring that users only have an internet connection and a web-browser in order to interface with the data stored in the legal application.
Despite these advantages, SaaS isn’t necessarily a solution for everyone. A prerequisite to using virtually any SaaS solution is a high-speed, reliable Internet connection. If you are in a rural area with unreliable or dial-up Internet, SaaS may not be the solution for you. Some desktop software products also offer an extremely high degree of customizability, while many SaaS solutions offer a simplified, streamlined interface. If you have highly specialized needs, there may be desktop software products that fit your needs with no SaaS-based counterparts as of yet.
Over the remainder of this series we’ll cover the specific advantages of web-based practice management and discuss other aspects of SaaS, such as security, backup, and Total Cost of Ownership, which should be weighed when choosing a SaaS solution.