Law firms are putting their e-mail systems in the cloud to cut costs and ensure they adhere to tough data protection regulations.
Information sent and received by law firms is not only business critical, but often highly sensitive. As a result security, storage and reliability are necessities for any e-mail system.
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This has lead to IT departments buying separate systems to provide security, archiving and back-up.
Cloud service provider Mimecast, which was launched in 2005 and was ranked third in Deloitte's Technology Fast 50 report this year, recognised this and targeted law firms with its e-mail management in the cloud service. It bundles services that replace the multiple third-party systems, providing archiving, security and continuity, that sit alongside an e-mail system.
Its success, in the legal sector, is evidence that the initial cloud scepticism around things like security are being overcome. Law firms are highly reliant on e-mail and data sent via e-mail is often highly confidential.
Pros and cons
Traditionally they have run other systems alongside their e-mail servers. This could be costly, more time-consuming and introduced more points of failure.
Cloud computing offered the opportunity to put everything in one place under a single point of management. But cloud computing involves putting data in a suppliers datacenter. This is a big step for any company, never mind a legal firm where e-mailed data is business-critical and highly confidential.
Despite the challenges associated with selling the cloud concept into the legal sector Mimecast decided it was a good one to target. It has since won significant business, including the scalp of Eversheds.
Paul Caris, CIO at Eversheds, said the whole business process around a law firm relies on the e-mail system.
Eversheds uses Microsoft Exchange e-mail server, and now receives anti-virus, anti-spam, e-mail archiving and e-mail disaster recovery form Mimecast.
He said the company was initially looking for an anti-spam system, but was struggling to find a company that could provide that and an archiving system. It chose Mimecast for that reason, but later found out that the e-mail server continuity offered by Mimecast was equally important.
Mimecast's continuity service mirrors the entire Microsoft Exchange environment for customers, which kicks in as soon as the in-house system goes down. This ensures that everyone can continue to work and no e-mails are lost. "We had a technology outage and although we lost the e-mail system we didn't lose one client e-mail," said Caris.
The company is saving £700,000 a year as a result of moving from standalone systems supporting Microsoft Exchange to a packaged service in the cloud. A lot of the savings come from not having on-premise storage.
Caris said moving to the cloud was not a big step for Eversheds. "We pride ourselves on being progressive and have been using cloud services for years."
Law firm Taylor Wessing has been a customer of Mimecast for five years. It initially looked for an alternative way of supporting its Exchange server when it repeatedly had power cuts.
Tim Hyman head of IT operations at the company said about five years ago interruptions to the power supply were a cause for concern.
"The building we were in had power-downs about four or five times a year, while the landlord did tests. Back then you could just about get away with telling lawyers they would not have access to systems at the weekend. But today it has to be 24:7."
The company needed a system that meant lawyers could still access systems when there was a power cut.
Before signing with Mimecast the company used Messagelabs as its ISP and also got anti-virus and anti-spam protection. It used other point-product from third party suppliers.
Mimecast and the cloud enabled the company to consolidate all systems into one solution. "Things that used to be our problems became Mimecast's problems," said Hyman.
He said the service was cheaper and more effective than the previous method. "It was about 80% of the total cost of the way we did it before. It was one of the easiest sells to the business I have ever done."
The biggest challenge was convincing the business to put the archive in the cloud, but he said the business benefits outweighed the concerns. The company signed the deal on condition that Mimecast guaranteed that all data resides within the EU so there were no data protection issues.
If the legal sector, which understands the importance of security and protecting intellectual property, is happy about putting e-mail systems in the cloud it should go some way towards reassuring other sectors that the technology is mature enough for them to do so.