March 13, 2013
One of the more popular uses for cloud computer networks and their community of shared computing resources is the provision of access to useful software. In the past, software was purchased and installed on each user’s computer. Today, software is frequently obtained through shared access, often described as “software as a service” (SaaS).
Like businesses in all other fields, many legal professionals find SaaS to be highly attractive. It helps users to ensure access to a diverse range of software quickly, efficiently, and at low cost. SaaS can provide an important tool for legal professionals. In order to make effective use of that tool, however, legal professionals should consider the following key factors as they evaluate SaaS choices.
When considering SaaS options, legal professionals should examine which SaaS offerings are most appropriate for their particular software needs. They should also consider ease of use, assessing the extent to which the SaaS product is compatible with their computer skills and interests. Most SaaS products are offered on a subscription basis instead of through a one-time purchase. Potential users of SaaS offerings should consider in advance whether their cash-flow and other business practices are compatible with the subscription model.
As SaaS choices are made, legal professionals should examine carefully the accessibility of the SaaS product. They should make sure that the product is accessible from a range of computing devices (e.g., tablets, smartphones), particularly from the devices most popular with the user. Legal professionals should evaluate the reliability of their Internet access when considering SaaS products. When comparing SaaS offerings, legal professionals should assess the service access commitments made by the SaaS providers in their quality of service commitments.
Legal professionals must comply with ethics requirements involving the security of client communications and information. As SaaS choices are made, legal professionals must evaluate carefully the data security provided by the SaaS products under review. That review should include assessment of topics such as security measures for stored and communicated data, access to and ownership of data, and procedures for reporting and remedying security breaches.
Effective support for SaaS products is essential. Legal professionals should assess the training options offered by SaaS vendors for users of their products. Maintenance commitments should be reviewed and compared. Users should evaluate carefully vendor commitments regarding updates and upgrades for the SaaS products. Users should also examine vendor commitments as to responsiveness for all maintenance and support services.
For some legal professionals, software as a service offers a useful and productive option to meet their software needs. For others, however, SaaS products may not be the best choice. Thoughtful advance comparison of needs and SaaS options will help to ensure efficient and effective use of the diverse capabilities made accessible by software as a service.