With the recently released ILTA Technology Survey there is little question that Cloud adoption is drifting upward at law firms. I have also seen this trend through recent conversations with law firm CIOs and CTOs. The shift is real. ILTA’s survey qualified this change to outsourced storage, rising to 62% in 2016, from 51% in 2015. This is a solid leap forward year over year.
ILTA Annual Legal Technology Survey 2016
While the majority of responding law firms lean in favor of Cloud technology, a certain subset of firms will stay the course and continue to opt-out. The primary reason given for avoiding the Cloud is client demand. That said, I have seen some cracks developing in the tough exterior of this conservative approach.
Given recent data breaches at law firms, I more frequently hear that clients tend to feel increasingly comfortable with a secured and vetted provider than allowing their law firms to continue hosting the data themselves. Security is the overarching reason. If a firm chooses a reliable Cloud provider, the likelihood of that provider having real-time monitoring, enhanced security application layers, and the most up-to-date services — especially compared to a typical law firm — is much more likely. In short, most firms would be better suited to use a top Cloud service rather than subjecting themselves to a multitude of cybersecurity issues by manning the wall alone.
Indeed, the resources and skills needed for the level of protection clients are demanding — demands that are growing more complicated daily — is normally beyond most law firms’ resources with regard to personnel and technology. The old adage is fitting in this case: “Do what you do best.” And maintaining storage may no longer fall into this space for the typical law firm.
Infinite Storage and What Comes Next
The largest Cloud providers are preparing for a meaningful change in this space over the next 10 years of growth. Clearly, storage is becoming very inexpensive as hardware prices drop. This leads us to what I have previously discussed — a time of Infinite Memory. When this happens (and we are very close now), the next significant change will be to the services model in this space. Five of the largest Cloud providers — Google, Amazon, Microsoft, SalesForce and IBM — are all preparing for it.
Artificial Intelligence as a Service (AIaaS)
More importantly, no longer will the Cloud be solely about storage. Instead, it will be more about the services — this has existed with SaaS- (Software as a Service)-based solutions for a while, but this is going to change even more in the next several years. The philosophy is that these large Cloud providers will probably start giving storage away for free. The next phase is leveraging some of the more emerging technologies in the Cloud, with Artificial Intelligence as a Service (AIaaS) being the next great jump forward.
The simple idea is that these providers will start charging for add-on services that nearly every organization will have to have in order to compete. If you do not have the latest AI, you may be out of the game quickly. These new services will compel those firms and companies still sitting on the sidelines into the game.
A bit further out, I see Cloud providers also getting into the Blockchain space. Essentially Blockchain is a decentralized database which stores encrypted information. It makes that data easily available to those who are allowed access to it. All of this information runs on services, and the Cloud will be able to handle this with aplomb.
Without a doubt, law firms’ reliance on the Cloud is growing quickly, and it is only a matter of time before it becomes more ubiquitous and accepted than our current state of 63% adoption.