Although initially slow to embrace technology and the cloud, the legal sector has made impressive inroads into information management and business process modernisation in the last 5 years.
In fact, it seems that legal firms are adopting new technology with such zeal that the FT is now stating that the next challenge facing lawyers is that there is “too much technology…how do buyers choose between hundreds of jostling suppliers?”
Stanford University, as reported in Cat Rutter Pooley’s piece for the FT, there are now 1,250 legal tech companies. LegalGeek reports that there are 250 of these firms based in Europe with 25 companies competing in the legal documents as a service sector. As Ms Pooley puts it, “firms are facing a tyranny of choice”.
We’re bound to cover this new legal tech in our articles in 2020 but we wanted to use this, one of the final articles for 2019, to look at the cloud – a technology which has been enthusiastically embraced in the last 2 years by solicitors’ practices and barristers’ chambers.
In this article, the Sprout IT predicts the direction of travel we believe that the cloud is heading toward in 2020, including a look at:
- the rise in edge computing
- serverless computing and Function as a Service
- the cloud and Blockchain
The rise of edge computing
In the beginning, there was the Network Computer (NC). In the mid- to late-nineties, Oracle had the vision that hard drives and floppy discs could be done away with because consumers and businesses would be able to take advantage of remote storage of their files – a very early version of the cloud. The problem was that most of the world was still in the dial-up era and copper wires were never able to deal with that amount of traffic before broadband technology became widespread.
Fast-forward a few years later and the increasing demand for device portability married to the available of super-fast broadband and 4G/5G connections made remote storage of files a much better proposition. In addition, computing technology and processing power had increased so much that, not only could information be stored remotely, but those remote servers could change, manipulate, and delete that data with the right software. It was the beginning of the cloud as we know it.
Demand mushroomed thanks in main to Amazon’s marketing approach and the sheer scale of the cloud facilities it offered consumers and businesses. The server farms that formed the cloud become super-sized – “Dark Satanic Mills 2.0” in the words of Prospect.
The market for cloud services is, in essence, an oligopoly dominated by Amazon, Microsoft, and Alphabet (the parent company of Google). The server farms owned and run by Amazon, Microsoft, and Alphabet may be based on different continents to you but can you really say that you would notice that when you use it, except if you’re playing online games?
Edge computing brings the cloud much closer to your physical location. If an edge computing cloud is based 100 miles away from you, the time it takes to transmit and receive data from that edge computer will be much less than if your cloud service is based in North America or somewhere else half a globe away.
This additional speed should increase the safety of any self-driving car, drone, or other autonomous vehicle or piece of machinery because, in theory, it should be able to react faster to unexpected or unwanted situations.
If edge computing takes off, experts expect the internet as a whole to speed up as bandwidth previously used to send and receive data halfway around the world does not have to use those routes anymore.
There’s a great video on the end of cloud computer by Peter Levine, an a16z General Partner, here that we’d strongly recommend you watch.
Cloud serverless computing
“Serverless computing” is tough to explain but we’ll have a go. With cloud technology, there is a piece (or pieces) of software on the servers which hold your data and perform the tasks you want carrying out. This is all done on a real-world and physical server in a remote location – your cloud server. Your cloud server is as real-world and physical as the server in your office or the desktop tower that might be next to you now.
The virtual servers on your private cloud (or hybrid cloud) need managing. They need an operating system and they need to be able to run web server hosting processes. This costs money and it takes time.
There exists a branch of IT called “function as a service” (FAAS). FAAS allows you to perform the same tasks on cloud servers but without the need to manage those servers, their operating systems, and their web server hosting processes. This is “serverless computing” – it still runs on a server but the way you use that server is different.
FAAS calls up certain code required for a task to be performed when it’s needed. This may mean that, when you first try to perform a particular task, the operation may be marginally slower because the code must be called and then run. However, for future times you perform the same task, caching may be able to speed it up to something approaching the delivery time you’d expect from a standard cloud service.
Because FAAS will always be slower than the standard cloud, what are the benefits? Charging for cloud services often depends on the time and server resources it takes for a task to be performed so, for some companies, there may be savings to be made.
With the continuing shift in the legal sector towards artificial intelligence, machine learning, and mass analysis of documentation, serverless computing may offer firms a way to reduce their costs in providing these services to clients.
Blockchain for the cloud
Blockchain is a technology most associated with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin – it’s an encrypted method of maintaining a transactional ledger using multi-party verification and mathematical puzzles to avoid the possibility of false information being recorded on the ledger.
Blockchain has, according to its adherents, the possibility to do so much more. For example, according to Harsh Arora and Archi Bhatia, any type of information can be added to a blockchain.
They state that “it is possible to store information about any or all of the registered intellectual property, as well as any trademarks, designs, or patents that are still in the registry stage or if the party is fighting the case.”
The cloud and the legal industry in 2020
SproutCloud offers the very best in Hybrid Cloud technology specifically tailored for client in the legal market. The SproutCloud provides security- and compliance-focused hosted IT services from a trusted market leading team.
Your SproutCloud is your own. No Sprout Hybrid Cloud customer will share storage space, IP addressing, internet bandwidth, email/application servers or operating systems with another client. We make sure to use only the best of breed infrastructure and user experience monitoring tools.
You can incorporate highly secure email, full mobile device management, compliant and secure file sharing and synchronisation, multi-factor authentication, and mobile application delivery into your SproutCloud.
Want to know more about our SproutCloud? Click here to download our useful data sheet to see how it can help your solicitors' practice or barristers' chamber.