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What is SaaS?: Understanding the Concepts of Cloud Computing

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Last week we discussed the basic concept of “legal cloud computing”. Now, let’s try to gain a better understanding of the concept by addressing the basic components of “cloud computing.” The concept of cloud computing arises from the interplay of three concepts: IaaS (Infrastructure as a service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) and SaaS (Software as a Service). What is SaaS? IaaS can be defined as: “a model in which an organization outsources the equipment used to support operations, including storage, hardware, servers and networking components. The service provider owns the equipment and is responsible for housing, running and maintaining it.”  Amazon EC2 and Rackspace are examples of this type of service. SaaS can be defined as a software distribution model in which applications are hosted by a vendor or service provider and made available to customers over a network, typically the Internet.”

The vendor provides daily technical operation, maintenance, and support for the software provided to their client. Examples include the email service Gmail and the virtual data room service offered by Firmex. PaaS can be defined  as “a paradigm for delivering operating systems and associated services over the Internet without downloads or installation.” Salesforce.com is an example of PaaS. While these concepts may, at first glance, seem confusing, it’s really quite simple: cloud computing platforms allow lawyers to focus on practicing law by providing a cost-effective way to outsource the burden of managing and maintaining servers, hardware and software platforms. lawywers_practicing

Cloud computing companies offer a unique and flexible solution, allowing attorneys to focus their time where it counts–serving their clients. As we’ll discuss in future posts, cloud computing can trigger some thorny ethical and security issues for lawyers, but in many cases can also provide better security than that currently being used by many law firms. For example, encrypted communications via cloud computing platforms offer far more security than the unencrypted emails typically used by most law practices.