Practice Management Applications in the
By Arita Damroze
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Inexpensive to Start but Never
Paid for. Cloud-based PMA
provide an inexpensive way to start. Youíll pay from $1 - $90 per month
(single user) to get started managing your practice in the cloud. As
time goes by you will add more users (another $1 - $90 per month per
user). You never finish paying for cloud software in the same way that
traditional desktop software is licensed. Of course, you get upgrades
and support for your money, but this is not optional as it is with
desktop software. Over time you will pay more for a cloud PMA, but this
cost should be considered together with your overall technology budget.
How much will you save by not having and maintaining your own server?
How often will you need to upgrade workstations? What will you spend for
Cloud PMA Features Trade Off. Cloud-based PMAs are starting to
rival their traditional desktop counterparts but still have a long way
to go. If you are using bells and whistles in your current PMA, make
sure that you will have equivalent functions in your cloud application.
For example, you may be accustomed to automatically adding interest to
bills, automatically splitting bills among two or more payers, using
different bill layouts for some clients, including a courtesy discount
or adding an administrative fee to your bills. You may have you
developed automations built around codes and templates. These are some
features lacking in most cloud PMAs today. On the other hand, functions
characteristic to the cloud such as uploading and sharing documents are
much easier from a cloud PMA.
Use a Legal PMA Vendor. There is a lot in the cloud that you
could use in a law firm, but should you? Probably not. For example,
PayPal now offers free invoicing. Instead of using free invoicing with
PayPal, use a legal PMA such as Clio (www.goclio.com) that provides
integrated billing with an option to receive payments via PayPal.
Best of Both Worlds: Hybrid Cloud and Hosted PMA. Sometimes the
best solution is to use a part-cloud/part-desktop application. This
gives you the convenience of working with your data anywhere, while
keeping a robust desktop system at the office. For example, Timeslips
users can use the Timeslips eCenter (www.sagetimeslipsecenter.com) to
enter time and expenses online. The data is housed at Sageís data
center. At your office, you use the full Timeslips program to import the
eCenter data. Other hybrid systems like Time Matters Mobility send data
direct from the web to your server.
A number of companies offer desktop hosting. With this option,
the hosting company maintains your applications and data on their
servers. You connect to your hosted desktop and access your applications
as you would if they were on your own server.
Backup. Lastly, and most importantly, you must have a backup
system in place in the event you are unable to access your cloud-based
data in the usual way. Some vendors provide a method for sending data to
your local computer. Since these backups may be difficult to work with,
I recommend synchronization of critical information. Most cloud-based
PMAs will sync with Outlook. This provides another copy of your data in
a familiar format. This will tie you over until you have resolved your
Another reason for regular backups is, as with any PMA, user error.
Letís say you have imported 10,000 records to your database and realize
that they should not be there. Youíll need to restore from a recent
backup. Does your cloud PMA retain multiple backups in case you need to
go back a few days? Before you subscribe, understand how the vendor
stores backups and what steps you must take to restore from a backup.
Cloud-Based Practice Management Vendors
Here are some of the popular vendors of cloud-based legal practice
management software (in alphabetical order by product name). This list was updated 11/9/2012: