How cloud platforms like Microsoft Azure can help chambers balance risks and costs
When we speak with our chambers clients about moving their IT to a cloud service like Microsoft Azure, they often have a lot of questions for us:
• Is this going to be secure?
• Will this be compliant with data privacy regulations?
• Is this going to be cost effective?
• Will this lock us in to a single IT company?
• Isn’t it better for us to manage our IT on-premises?
The answers to these questions aren’t always straightforward. However, for many chambers, the move to cloud could be a smart one, and help strike a fine balance between the constant pressures to find efficiencies and ensure risk is kept low.
To help illustrate what the cloud can really offer chambers, we spoke with some of our clients to get their thoughts on how they found moving to Microsoft Azure and Office 365.
Ensure IT unity across barristers
With many different barristers working within a single set, it can be challenging to ensure they all follow IT policy and use approved software.
The problem becomes even worse if you’re using systems that aren’t especially fast, responsive or user-friendly. Many barristers won’t hesitate to find alternative solutions if the ones you offer them aren’t suitable, or don’t offer the functionality they need.
Hosting your critical systems in the cloud can help with this, offering barristers the ability to quickly access the data and software they need from anywhere, at any time.
Joe Barrett, Financial Controller and Office Administrator at Red Lion Chambers, found this out first-hand after migrating their IT systems to Microsoft Azure cloud. “We found some barristers were opting to find their own solutions rather than use the ones we provided. Moving to the cloud has changed all that though. Finally, we have systems and apps that all the barristers can get behind.”
By keeping everyone on the same IT platform, you can maintain full visibility of your data and simplify compliance with data protection regulations like the GDPR .
Ensure consistent data sovereignty
One of the biggest dangers of barristers finding their own IT solutions is that these systems won’t be fit for chambers in terms of regulatory needs.
For instance, most professional-grade solutions offer you the choice of where your data is hosted. This is essential for barristers that need to comply with any data privacy and sovereignty regulations.
However, if barristers choose their own solutions, they may use consumer versions that do not let them choose where data is stored. For example, if barristers use a consumer version of Dropbox to store their files in the cloud, all of that data will be stored in the US – a potential risk for criminal barristers and those in other heavily regulated fields.
By comparison, cloud vendors offering enterprise applications can host servers in many different regions. This was particularly important for Andrew Ross, Chambers Business Manager at 5PB: “As we deal with criminal law, we have to think very carefully about how and where we store data. We were pleasantly surprised to find that Microsoft offered UK data centres for their cloud systems. I’d say it was a crucial factor in our decision to use Microsoft Office 365.”
Enhance security in the cloud
Though it is a less common thought as more industries become accustomed to cloud IT, the myth remains that the cloud is somehow less secure than on-premises hardware. However, in most cases the cloud can be more secure than local IT.
With cloud hosting, like Microsoft Azure’s cloud, you get the latest security patches and software versions included in your package. Azure also provides enterprise grade security features and highly secure networking. As the hardware powering cloud is kept in highly secure data centres, they offer reliable protection from physical threats as well.
Finally, many cloud providers also have multiple sites in different geographies, meaning your data is secured and can be stored in multiple data centres at minimal additional cost. While you can, of course, backup on premises systems, the process can be time-consuming, expensive and involve managing the logistics of backup tapes or drives. The cost of replicating your local servers to the cloud can be very expensive in the long term; it can lock you in to backup and IT vendors. In the cloud, backups are quick and require no extra hardware.
“It’s easy to feel like managing the IT yourself would keep risk low,” says Kevin Aldridge, Chambers Business Manager at 3TG. “But we’ve actually found the opposite. Since migrating to the cloud, we’ve not had to worry about applications no longer functioning correctly, upgrading and patching. It all just works.”
The balance between risk and cost
Cost-savings are often seen as one of the big benefits of moving to the cloud. But the reality we’ve seen with chambers clients isn’t so straightforward. That’s because, provided you can keep a server running for long enough, it will almost certainly be cheaper than a cloud solution in the long run.
What the cloud does offer is a balance between being secure, low-risk and cost-effective. It also offers several features on-premises hosting cannot, such as simpler reporting, high security, compliance and easy access to files from anywhere in the world.
For Delia Lees-Buckley, Chambers Director at Field Court Chambers, the benefits made cloud a very compelling alternative to on-premises IT. “There’s always a balance to be had. In terms of pure costs, I’m not sure there was much in it – especially over a five-year period. However, I truly believe we get a superior experience in the cloud, with far less risk. That is the main concern for us.”
Find your own balance
Still not sure if the cloud is the right fit for you?
There’s a lot to consider with how you host your IT. We’d be happy to talk through all the factors to help you make the right choice for your chambers. Click here to get in touch with one of our experts.
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