Web-Based Accounting

There are a number of reasons why law firms should implement web-based software solutions. But the bottom line is that it reduces costs, improves security, and simplifies support.

Work from anywhere

This is one of the main reasons why web-based software reduces costs.  Some employees can work from home, reducing office rental and improving work/life balance – which in turn allows the firm to attract and retain talented people. It’s not just about saving floor space though, it is also about saving time.  Time spent on office teas, time lost to illnesses like the flu (which spread in office environments), time wasted in traffic, and time wasted on office politics!

It also means that law firms can have a decentralised structure with branch offices closer to where employees live, all connected via the Internet.  Usually, these branch offices have lower rentals than city offices. And a shorter travel time.

Some firms also place employees inside their major clients’ offices to improve service, and web-based software allows these remote workers to connect to the office remotely without any connectivity costs.

“Work from anywhere” is a game-changer for the legal profession.  Not only now, during the COVID pandemic, but into the future as firms are forced to change the way they go about business in order to increase profit margins.

Cheaper computers that last longer

Because computers don’t need to be really powerful to run a browser, there is no need to spend as much on replacing computers.  This is even more important now as firms realise that staff should work on notebook computers rather than old-fashioned desktop computers, partly because of work-from-anywhere, and partly because load shedding is almost certainly going to be a problem as we return to “normal” working conditions.

Typically a desktop computer should be replaced every 4 years.  That’s because desktop applications constantly need more processor power.  But with a browser (web) application, computers can last for 6 years or more, representing a substantial saving.

When buying new notebook computers, firms should opt for a faster processor (i7) with at least 8Gb of RAM memory and a solid-state (“SSD”) drive for speed.  This will ensure longer life for their hardware. And rather than purchase a copy of Microsoft Office outright, firms should rent MS Office from Microsoft as they then get all Microsoft Office upgrades free, and this also allows firms to budget for the expense and to write off the rental as an expense in the current tax year.

Web software can be hosted remotely

The whole world has realised that hosted servers are the way of the future.  Firstly, hosting your server reduces costs of server hardware and software (like anti-virus and firewalls) and the IT costs of maintaining an on-premise server. Secondly, a hosted server is likely to be way more secure and better managed than 95% of all in-house servers because the hosting provider is focused on hosting as a business.  Backups are better managed in a hosted environment, and each daily backup is tested for restore-integrity, ensuring that if things do go wrong, the backup will restore correctly.

Another great advantage of a hosted server is that it provides disaster recovery as standard. If anything happens to the firm’s offices – for example fire or flood, or perhaps server theft, or the country goes into another lockdown, employees can simply connect to the office remotely.  While these disasters rarely* happen, firms have to plan for them anyway. (*We also now know that the types of disasters really happen too!)

One other major advantage is that with hosted software, you won’t need to worry about version upgrades of your software, as this happens automatically in the background.

Lastly, you will be able to budget for your server expense, and not worry about a major cash outflow if a computer fails, or if a server needs to be upgraded. And as mentioned earlier, your hosted server rentals can be expensed against tax in the current year.

Easier to use

Because most users are familiar with how a browser works, web-based software is easier to learn and use. That makes it easier for new employees to learn your software programs, but it also means that users get more out of the software as they understand it better.

The other small things

A hosted server also means that you can reduce insurance cover on your in-house server – like theft or mechanical failure cover. You also won’t need as much disaster insurance in the event the firm cannot work for some reason.

Added to this you won’t need floorspace for your server room, and you won’t need to run an air-conditioner 24/7 to keep your server cool.  You’ll also save on electricity generally.  (A single server can use up to R1,000 per month in electricity – excluding the cost of electricity for the air-conditioner.)

Firms should move to web, now

Although the evidence for law firms to move to web is overwhelming, many firms will continue to work as they do now, overpaying for computers, and being exposed to disasters such as ransomware, data loss, fire, and theft. It’s just easier to deal with things reactively rather than to be proactive. But there are many smart firms that have already moved most of their software applications to a web-hosted environment, and these firms will recover from the current crisis far more quickly than those who are not using web applications.  With the current uncertainty, reducing costs and changing the way lawyers do business will be essential for survival going forward.

Chris Pearson is a director of AJS Software
For more information visit ajs.co.za

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