Clearing Up the Fog of the Cloud

 

The term “cloud” is being bandied about rather loosely today by software vendors, even when some of the products they’re pitching aren’t cloud-based! For law firms looking to take their document management process to the cloud, I thought I’d share some of the fundamental differences between native cloud platforms like NetDocuments and hosted versions of traditional on-premises systems, as the latter do not include many of the key benefits sought by law firms when moving to the cloud.

 

In each of the sections below, I explain the differences between the two types of systems. Yes, I’m biased toward NetDocuments because I am a certified trainer on the NetDocs platform, but that’s because it is truly the best, as proven by the fact that, every year, more and more law firms are moving to NetDocuments for their DMS needs.

 

 

PLATFORM

NetDocuments: Native Cloud Platform

Born-on-the-web, native cloud platform with a single instance of the software running globally for all customers. Back-end technology infrastructure comprised of modern, web-scale, cloud technologies such as NoSQL and NewSQL, Lucene and Solr search, Object Storage, Erasure Coding, HSM cryptography, etc.

 

Hosted Versions of Traditional On-Premises DMS

Traditional on-premises technology with the back-end infrastructure running off-site in a remote datacenter. Requires that a completely separate instance of the software and infrastructure be deployed and maintained for each individual customer, which negates many of the inherent benefits typically associated with modern cloud solutions.

 

 

CLOUD EXPERIENCE

NetDocuments: Native Cloud Platform

15+ years of cloud-first experience, with nearly 2,000 customers now running on the NetDocuments native cloud platform.

 

Hosted Versions of Traditional On-Premises DMS

Relative newcomers to the hosted/cloud space, and most experience has been with smaller customers; very few large deployments of hosted version.

 

 

SECURITY AND COMPLIANCE

NetDocuments: Native Cloud Platform

Trusted platform with built-in certifications, third-party testing, and audits such as ISO 27001, SOC 2, SOC 2+, HIPAA, SEC, etc. By simply using the service, NetDocuments customers “inherit” these highest levels of security and compliance.

 

Hosted Versions of Traditional On-Premises DMS

Any certifications are only for co-location datacenters, not the actual software application as there is no single native cloud instance of the application to certify, test or audit. The burden is on customers to provide for their individual implementations the levels of security and compliance required by their clients.

 

 

UPGRADES

NetDocuments: Native Cloud Platform

Automatic – all customers are always on the most recent version and have continuous and instantaneous access to the latest product upgrades, bug fixes, and security patches.

 

Hosted Versions of Traditional On-Premises DMS

Manual – customers need to be upgraded one-by-one, which results in additional complexity and more frequent and lengthy scheduled downtimes for maintenance.

 

 

END-USER EXPERIENCE

NetDocuments: Native Cloud Platform

Proven, simple, intuitive, modern web user experience on the desktop, tablets or mobile devices. A robust yet lightweight app (“ndOffice”) is also available for full desktop application integration with MS Office, Adobe, etc., as well as dozens of third-party desktop applications.

 

Hosted Versions of Traditional On-Premises DMS

Traditional heavy client footprints still used even with hosted/cloud deployments; very new (beta/1.x phase) web user interfaces generally meant to be secondary user interfaces intended for consumption only – and not purpose-built for actual work product management (editing documents, etc.).

 

 

DOWNTIME FOR SCHEDULED MAINTENANCE

NetDocuments: Native Cloud Platform

Typically only once or twice per year, as the modern cloud back-end platform enables continuous maintenance and upgrades without service downtime.

 

Hosted Versions of Traditional On-Premises DMS

As frequently as twice per month, as the traditional on-premises back-end technology generally requires downtime for maintenance, updates, etc.

 

 

ENCRYPTION

NetDocuments: Native Cloud Platform

All data encrypted at rest by default, with a separate AES-256 encryption key per document; all encryption keys are held in Hardware Security Modules (HSMs); customer custody over encryption keys; entropic cryptography.

 

Hosted Versions of Traditional On-Premises DMS

Only basic hardware encryption available for core DMS application. Any mention of advanced encryption and customer custody of encryption keys is only for the external sharing module, not the core DMS application.

 

 

LOCAL BACKUP OF DATA

NetDocuments: Native Cloud Platform

Optional and available out-of-the-box with the “Local Document Server.”

 

Hosted Versions of Traditional On-Premises DMS

Requires custom services and configuration.

 

 

THIRD-PARTY INTEGRATION

NetDocuments: Native Cloud Platform

Robust native cloud APIs and infrastructure that scale to the performance of third-party applications whether they are cloud-based or desktop applications. NetDocuments does not charge for its API.

 

Hosted Versions of Traditional On-Premises DMS

Third-party API calls go against a single instance of a hosted DM server, which can result in severe performance issues. Customers may incur additional fees to standup additional hosted DM servers to handle the load of third-party integrations.

 

 

DATA STORAGE LOCATION FLEXIBILITY

NetDocuments: Native Cloud Platform

Data storage location (cloud or on-premises) can easily be set on a matter by matter (or client by client) basis all within the same library/cabinet, and it’s transparent to end users.

 

Hosted Versions of Traditional On-Premises DMS

Data storage location (hosted or on-premises) can only be set on a library by library level, which introduces significant usability issues as users have to think about which library to search in, save documents in, etc.

 

 

OFFLINE CAPABILITY

NetDocuments: Native Cloud Platform

The desktop UI “ndOffice” provides offline functionality for cached documents. Also, “ndSync” provides Dropbox-like bidirectional synchronization of documents, matters, folders, etc. across all devices including laptops, tablets, and mobile devices; includes built-in information governance controls and device management (e.g., remote wipe).

 

Hosted Versions of Traditional On-Premises DMS

Bidirectional synchronization only available on traditional desktop/laptop offline clients. Separate mobile apps that provide one-way synchronization for tables and mobile devices. Generally lacking advanced information governance controls such as remote wipe, etc.

 

 

As you can see, there is a vast difference between a true cloud-based DMS for law firms and the hosted versions. I you’d like to see a free demo on NetDocuments, contact me!

 

 

 

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