Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cloud Computing for Small Firms

Cloud computing presents a monumental opportunity to improve the way information technology needs are addressed over the coming years. For small firms, particularly law firms, the benefits can be transformational to the practice. Understanding and embracing this trend should be a high priority for those who make technology decisions in these environments.
The days of buying servers and software and putting them in your office are all but over. Power, air conditioning, data communications, networking, fire suppression, security and other concerns related to in-office servers consume time and money that is better spent elsewhere. In a “cloud computing” solution, servers can reside in professionally managed data centers instead of your office. This reduces not only the one-time costs of buying the servers and creating your own mini data center, but also means you don’t have to hire people to design, build, and support these systems.


At one time or another we have all been a victim of the shortcomings of the traditional client/server environment. An email system in your office goes down on the weekend, someone has to: a) know that it’s gone down; b) be willing and able to fix it; and c) have the expertise and spare parts to fix either the hardware or software. The headache and expense of these technology crises add very little value to your practice.


Because cloud computing is still an emerging solution, the standards for service have yet to be defined. For now, it is recommended that adopters stick with established providers like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Salesforce.com, to name just a few. In core functions such as email (Microsoft Exchange, Gmail, Yahoo! mail or similar), Customer Relationship Management [CRM] (Salesforce.com, Microsoft CRM or similar) and applications (NetSuite, Google Docs, Microsoft Live or similar), these companies have established themselves as high quality vendors that small firms can trust.


The benefits are plentiful:


• Faster start-up time;
• No capital expenditure (CapEx) costs;
• No need to design, order and build your computing requirements;
• No need to use costly square footage to house servers in your offices;
• No need to hire people to manage your specific servers;
• No issues with evening and weekend support coverage;
• Access to high-end applications for a nominal fee; and
• No costs for upgrading software or hardware every few years.


Detractors point to the benefits of a traditional client/server environment:


• The ability to physically secure your data;
• Faster speed due to no telecommunications delays;
• Ability to customize the software and/or environment;
• Potential competitive advantage through customization; and
• Possibly less cost over four or more years.


Small firms will not typically leverage these benefits of a dedicated server; they will only bear the costs. For the typical small law firm, there is rarely a true need for in-house computers and servers other than desktop or laptop computers – and even that is changing. The use of cloud computing provides you with the ability to quickly and affordably access big company technology without all the headaches.




Mark Mathias is the Chief Technology Officer at NexFirm. He can be reached at 646-666-8992 or mmathias@nexfirm.com.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

At NexFirm, we are eating our own dog food - Social Media

NexFirm is changing the way small and mid-sized services companies operate. We free up entrepreneurs to focus on producing top notch work product and develop new business by handling the arduous and time consuming task of managing back office operations. Our platform enables our partner firms to focus on what they do best, save money and enjoy a greater chance of success.




As part of our service offering, NexFirm manages the web presence for our clients, including their website and social media initiatives. You may think that social media is a vehicle for Ashton Kutcher to share his every whim with adoring teenagers. Maybe so, but at the same time it is a powerful and inexpensive way for businesses to cultivate relationships with existing and prospective clients. In the time it would take to write a thank you note, you can reach hundreds or even thousands with a value added bit of information. This keeps you fresh in the mind of your clients and enhances the perception of you as a resource and an expert in your field.


Social media can include company and industry blogs, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn [you should input the trademark sign on these names] communications as well as email campaigns. To be effective, content must be added regularly and be tailored to the interest of the readers. This may seem like a daunting task when you already have a full schedule, but the results can be significant and amply justify the time and energy.


Starting in September, NexFirm will lead our clients by example by launching a comprehensive social media calendar. Our activities on the web will include weekly blog publishing, Twitter and Facebook activities as well as periodic web conferences and other online events.


Here’s what you can expect from NexFirm:


• During the first week of each month, NexFirm’s CEO David DePietto will publish a column entitled “From the Partner’s Perspective” which will discuss strategic and tactical issues faced by small and mid-sized firms for those who run or hope to launch a practice.


• During the second week of each month, Beth Anisman, CEO of consultancy B&Co. and board member at NexFirm will publish a column entitled “Operations: Confidential” which will cover a wide range of issues in the professional services space from business development and operational excellence to career advice and personal enrichment.


• During the third week of each month, NexFirm’s CTO Mark Mathias will publish a column entitled “TechTalk” which will discuss technology solutions, issues and opportunities for professional practices.


• During the fourth week of the month (and the fifth if there is one), NexFirm will invite a guest author for “The Hot Seat” which will address a wide variety of topics in the area of interest for small and mid-sized professional firms.


The objective is to establish NexFirm as a resource for those who run small or mid-sized service firms, and build a name synonymous with launching and operating firms of this type. Give some thought to your objective; then let NexFirm help you reach it by creating an online marketing program for your firm.


Email info@nexfirm.com
Web http://www.nexfirm.com/
Twitter www.twitter.com/nexfirm
Facebook www.facebook.com/nexfirm
Linkedin www.linkedin.com/companies/nexfirm
Blog blog.nexfirm.com


David DePietto is the Chief Executive Officer at NexFirm. He can be reached at 646-666-8990 or dd@nexfirm.com.