A quick guide to hosted desktops for solicitors

The legal sector has undergone radical changes over the last few years. And, against this backdrop of change, firms have never been under more pressure to reduce costs and free up cashflow. But one thing remains constant, and that’s the sheer volume of information and legal documents that need to be managed. With business continuity and regulatory compliance essential requirements of the Law Society’s Lexcel accreditation, resilient and secure working processes that guarantee access to these documents are a must. I

In this short guide, we’ll highlight the benefits a hosted desktop solution can deliver to your legal firm; helping you to better manage your business data and capitalise on the power of the cloud.

What is a hosted desktop?

From your employees’ point of view, a hosted (or virtual) desktop works just like a standard Microsoft Windows desktop. So, staff can turn on their computers, laptops, iPads, etc., and access all the files and programs they need to do their jobs. But rather than being stored on a particular computer’s hard drive, the settings, data, and operating system are delivered over the internet. This means users can access their files and your firm’s practice management software from any device, even if they aren’t in the office.

How does it work?

With a hosted desktop, all the files and programs you need to run your law firm are stored on servers at a secure data centre. Your desktop access these by using the internet to connect to those servers. So, while a hosted desktop uses the cloud, this doesn’t mean that your valuable business data is just floating around in cyberspace!

What does your firm need to deploy a hosted desktop solution?

First and foremost, you’ll need a decent broadband connection. If you don’t have a broadband speed of at least 4MB per second, then you’ll need to get this sorted before making the switch. You can check your firm’s speed at www.speedtest.net

What software can you run on a hosted desktop?

Basically, anything your firm needs. This includes Microsoft Office, practice management software, case management software, financial software, and document management applications.

How will a hosted desktop help your law firm?

As well as lowering the cost of provision, hosted desktops deliver increased flexibility, scalability, productivity, efficiency, and resilience. So it’s no wonder that legal firms are using them to solve their growing business challenges.

  • Improved access to business critical information

By bringing together processes and data, the hosted desktop delivers enhanced management information. This can lead to more informed decision making, and even create opportunities for new revenue streams.

  • Increased productivity

Your lawyers and other employees get access to everything they need, wherever they need it, on any device. This supports more flexible working practices and leads to increased productivity.

  • Reduced costs

With no expensive hardware to buy, switching to a hosted desktop reduces your IT investment costs. Instead, your firm pays for the software it uses on a month-to-month basis, without any long-term commitment.

  • Scale up and down with your business

It’s easy to upgrade or add new software, so you can scale up (or down) as needed. Setting up accounts for new staff and ordering more storage space or applications can also be done in a matter of minutes.

  • Reduced maintenance

With the hosted desktop, the maintenance of your IT system is done remotely by your provider. This helps to reduce reliance on IT support staff. Likewise, all the latest software fixes and security updates are made automatically.

  • Mitigate downtime

You experience little to no downtime. For example, at Key Computing we provide 99.9% uptime for all cloud services.

  • Access to the very best software

A hosted desktop solution provides your law firm with access to enterprise-level informational tools that may otherwise have been out of your reach.

Things to consider

With a hosted desktop, data – including your clients’ personal information – is held on a third-party server. This is important when it comes to meeting standards of professional conduct and regulatory compliance. So, before you dive in, here are just some of the things law firms must consider before switching to the cloud.

Is it SRA compliant?

Not all hosted desktop providers are created equal, so you must check that any partner you use will help you to meet Outcome 7.10 of the SRA Code of Conduct. In practice, this could mean drafting an agreement requiring your provider to deliver usable data to the SRA on demand.

According to guidance from the SRA, best practice for due diligence includes:

  • Taking references from other companies using the proposed provider
  • Checking service level agreements carefully to ensure that the proposed service can offer at least full Safe Harbour compliance if data is stored outside the EEA
  • Checking that the provider can offer audited information security that at a minimum is compliant with ISO27001 2005
  • Checking that the provider can offer a level of guaranteed uptime and continuity protection that is acceptable to the firm
  • Ensuring, where staff will be working on the move, that they have properly secured communication channels to protect security
  • Ensuring that your contract with the provider includes the requirements of Outcome 7.10 of the SRA Code of Conduct.

Does it comply with the Data Protection Act?

All solicitors must comply with the Data Protection Act 1998. While it is not a breach to pass client and other information to a cloud provider, a written contract must be created to require your chosen provider to comply with the Act. This should cover meeting established security levels, processes for dealing with information, service level agreements, and expected levels of backup and retrieval procedures.

The SRA also recommends that data security can be further improved by:

  • Using a private cloud, or private area of a hybrid cloud, for client confidential material
  • Using software to automatically encrypt documents at the law firm’s end
  • Using security keys that are not known to the provider
  • Using only providers that are based in EEA countries or countries offering equivalent or greater data protection laws, and that can guarantee that data will not be held in jurisdictions that do not offer such protections.

How quickly can you access your data?

With automated backup services and best-in-class recovery processes, the right hosted desktop solution will keep your data robust, safe, and secure. They also provide improved access to data from any networked device; ensuring everyone in your firm can retrieve all the real-time information they need. However, with varying cloud partners offering different levels of service, be sure you check the following before you sign any agreement:

  • Does your firm maintain full ownership of the information?
  • How quickly can this information be handed over on demand?
  • What backup processes are in place?
  • What level of downtime can you expect?
  • What processes are in place should a more severe outage occur?

Is your hosted desktop managed?

With a managed approach, IT specialists are watching your system all the time, making sure it’s running smoothly and quickly. Managed desktop services also boast best-in-class backup and recovery processes. So you can be sure that your data is recoverable should something go wrong.

You can access more information from the SRA on this topic here.

A partner your legal firm can trust

Understanding the IT challenges faced by the legal sector, our commercially astute team delivers sophisticated cloud solutions for professional services companies that keep you profitable and compliant.

At Cloud Geeni, our cloud server services consistently achieve the highest level of data security and reliability, maximising safety and eliminating downtime. In fact, all our cloud server data centres are:

  • Situated in the UK
  • Compliant with SRA guidelines
  • ISO27001 approved
  • Security managed 24/7
  • Fitted with fire detection systems.
  • Kept at the optimum temperatures to ensure they do not overheat.
  • Supported by backup power supplies
  • Fitted with the highest security firewalls.
  • Carrier neutral, ensuring connectivity access across all major networks.

To find out how a hosted desktop solution can help to deliver efficiency throughout your business processes –  while protecting your client and business data  – speak to a member of our team on 01942 263 434 today.