Best Cloud Storage for Law Firms in 2021

Top Law Firm Cloud Storage | 2021

Introduction to Law Firm Cloud Storage

Law firms across the country are moving away from on-premise file servers to cloud-based storage and document management systems.

Even before the most recent pandemic, law firms have been eying the cloud as an alternative to the costs, headaches and inflexibility of on-premise file servers. Today, the modern law firm needs:

  • Access to client, matter and firm documents (all of them) from anywhere.
  • Access to documents without the burden of clunky VPN connections.
  • Enhanced data security and compliance measures.
  • Simplicity and ease-of-use, to encourage adoption across the entire firm.

Naturally, this leads many law offices to search for the best cloud storage for law firms. And today, there is no shortage of cloud-based storage and file systems competing for your dollar.

But which is the overall best cloud storage for law firms?

  • Which has the functionality your firm needs?
  • Which is the most secure?
  • Which is the easiest to use?
  • What’s the difference between Document Management and Cloud Storage?

In this article, we’ll answer these questions and more, and cover the best cloud storage solutions for law firms.

Let’s get started.


Classes of Law Firm Cloud Storage

Software or a service that can store your documents in the cloud is a pretty broad category.

What’s more, it’s easy to get lost in the terminology, buzzwords, technical nuance, and (sometimes) hyperbole. With the unique needs of the legal profession as our guide, it’s useful to organize the different cloud storage options into two broad categories, or classes, of cloud storage for law firms.

Basic Cloud Storage

Let’s start with the simplest class of law firm cloud storage (and the one you’re probably already familiar with), basic cloud storage.

Basic cloud storage is just that: Simple, lightweight storage for your firm’s documents and data. Basic, not in the pejorative sense, but in the sense that the platform is easy to use and doesn’t try to do too much.

Basic cloud storage is loosely the cloud equivalent of your law firm’s S: drive, or on-premise file system. With basic cloud storage, you can create a set of firm-wide, top-level folders (for instance: a folder per client, per matter, and so forth), and store and organize documents within.

Your firm’s cloud file system looks and works much like any folder structure within Windows Explorer, only it’s accessible to your entire team, and from anywhere (within a web browser or via a desktop sync application.)

Basic cloud storage solutions include services you’ve probably already heard of: Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, DropBox, and Box.com.

Many cloud-based Law Practice Management solutions also provide in-line cloud storage (something like a “built-in OneDrive” within the software.)

Pros:

  • Quick to Setup and Implement
  • Easy to Use
  • Low-Cost

Cons:

  • Limited DMS Features
  • Limited Search Capabilities
  • Common Sync Problems*
  • No Email Management

*Sync Problems:

Basic cloud storage platforms can be a good (or great) fit for smaller teams (law firms of up to 5 people). However, a fundamental problem with all of these services is they attempt to synchronize to each of your user’s computers. This works okay for a couple of people, but when you get to more than a few users, the synchronization becomes inefficient and inconsistent, leading to inconsistencies (version conflicts, etc.) in data from one person’s computer to another.

Document Management Software

If basic cloud storage is simply “a place online to make folders and put stuff,” a Document Management System (DMS) is a more comprehensive, robust system to store and manage documents in the cloud.

Document Management Systems have been around a long time. Years ago, a law firm might acquire document management software and install it on the firm’s on-premise server. Today, most document management systems are cloud-based, which means they provide both the storage of your documents, as well as a rich feature set to manage those documents.

Beyond simple folders-and-files, a cloud-based law firm Document Management System will often provide:

  • Client/Matter-Centric Org
  • Full-Text Search (docs & email)
  • Microsoft Office Integration
  • Document Version Management
  • Document Tagging & Profiling
  • Document Check-Out / Check-In
  • Permissions & Access Controls
  • Pin Favorite & Recent Documents
  • Unique ID Per-Document
  • One-Click Open / One-Click-Save
  • Integrated Email Management

Oftentimes law firms start with basic cloud storage, and as their team grows, find the capabilities of basic cloud options lacking one or two key features that the firm needs (such as full-text search, or document tagging).

The same also happens for firms that implement cloud-based Law Practice Management (that may advertise “Document Management” as a feature), and soon find the document storage and management capabilities therein are simply too limited.

Pros:

  • Robust Feature Set
  • Full-Text Search (docs & email)
  • Centralized Cloud Storage
  • No Synchronization Issues
  • Highly Scalable

Cons:

  • More Substantial Investment *
  • Data Migration/Conversion Required

*Investment:

More functionality requires more investment. By way of example: the LexWorkplace document management base package is $395 / month, which includes up to 5 users and 1TB of storage.

Law Firm Cloud Storage Features

We recommend that you start your search for the right law firm cloud storage platform by making an inventory of the specific capabilities and features that you require. For this, we recommend that you confer with each area within your law firm: from attorneys to support staff.

Use our checklist below as a guide, and identify which of these are must-have’s for your firm.

  • Web-based Access to Documents
  • Windows and Mac OS Support
  • Organize with Folders / Subfolders
  • Organize by Client / Matter
  • Full-Text Search (docs & email)
  • Microsoft Office Integration
  • Complete Data Encryption
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
  • Geographic Data Redundancy

  • Document Version Management
  • Document Tagging & Profiling
  • Document Check-Out / Check-In
  • Permissions & Access Controls
  • Pin Favorite & Recent Documents
  • Unique ID Per-Document
  • One-Click Open / One-Click-Save
  • Integrated Email Management

Data Security & Compliance – A Guide for Law Firms

Regardless of the specific features your law firm needs, one thing that is universally important is data security and compliance.

Any given cloud storage service, ranging from simple cloud storage to robust cloud-based Document Management software, should have specific data security and compliance measures in place. As a law firm, you’re almost certain to be storing sensitive information. And depending on your practice area, you may hold data subject to regulations such as HIPAA, Sarbanes Oxley or PCI Compliance

  • Data Encryption In-Transit
  • Data Encryption At-Rest
  • Multi-Factor Authentication
  • Geographic Data Redundancy

Multi-Factor Authentication

MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication) is a vital piece of the security puzzle. Passwords are often compromised, so a username/password alone is not enough to keep your data secure.

MFA provides an important additional layer of security by requiring a second means of authentication (usually your smart phone) prior to accessing your data.

With your must-have features itemized and your security requirements defined, you’re ready to evaluate the top law firm cloud storage solutions.

The Best Cloud Storage for Law Firms in 2021

OneDrive

Company: Microsoft

Class: Basic Cloud Storage

Overview

OneDrive is Microsoft’s own cloud storage service, available as part of an Office 365 subscription or as a stand-alone service. OneDrive provides simple, easy-to-use cloud storage, and aims to replace a local file server or simply be used for personal storage. OneDrive is built right into Windows, making it an easy and obvious go-to for simple storage needs. OneDrive, however, lacks functionality required by many law firms including matter-centricity, email management, and document tagging and profiling.

STAND-OUT FEATURES

  • Tight Integration with Microsoft Office
  • Streamlined, Intuitive Interface
  • Built into Windows 10

PRICING

  • Included in Office 365 Business Standard Plan and Above
  • Additional 1TB Storage: + $5 / User / Month
  • Upgrade to Unlimited Storage: + $10 / User / Month

LexWorkplace

Company: Uptime Legal

Class: Cloud-based Document Management

Overview

LexWorkplace is both business-class cloud storage and a legal-centric document management system (DMS) that works with Windows and Mac. LexWorkplace will keep your documents, email and notes organized by matter, indexed and searchable. LexWorkplace includes document versioning, powerful search, integrated OCR, scan and fax integration, Microsoft Office and Outlook integration and document tagging/profiling.

STAND-OUT FEATURES

  • Complete Windows and Mac OS Support
  • Client/Matter-Centric Organization
  • Full-Text Search Across all Documents & Email
  • One-Click Open, One-Click Save
  • Document Version Management
  • Email Management (Save Emails to a Matter from Outlook)
  • Document Profiling & Tagging

PRICING

  • Base Package: $395 / Month
  • Includes 5 Users, 1TB Storage
  • Additional User: + $40 / Month
  • Additional 100 GB Storage: + $40 / Month

Google Drive

Company: Google

Class: Basic Cloud Storage

OVERVIEW

Google Drive, part of Google’s G Suite of productivity apps, is a popular cloud storage and file backup service. Google Drive is part of the Google Ecosystem which means its easily accessible from your Android phone and integrates with other services such as Google Docs and Google Photos. Google Drive is easy to get started with and is low-cost. However, Google Drive lacks the sophisticated law firm cloud storage features needed by most law offices. It’s simplicity may be its biggest drawback for law firms, but perhaps a viable option if your firm is already using Gmail/G Suite.

STAND-OUT FEATURES

  • Integrated Google Docs for Web-based Document Editing
  • Built into G-Suite, Available for Individuals or Teams
  • Lowest-Cost Option

PRICING

  • 200 GB: $2.99 / Month
  • 2 TB: $9.99 / Month
  • 10 TB: $49.99 / Month
  • 20 TB: $99.99 / Month

Dropbox

Company: Dropbox, Inc.

Class: Basic Cloud Storage

OVERVIEW

Dropbox was the first, and is possibly the most well-known basic cloud storage solution. It provides easy-to-use cloud storage for individuals or teams (organizations). Dropbox, like its counterparts, includes a web app (to store and open documents from a web browser) as well as a client for Windows, Mac, IOS and Android. Dropbox can sync your file system across multiple devices. This is handy for personal use, such as keeping your desktop and laptop in sync. However, when an entire organization’s file system is synced across many computers, conflicts and files becoming out-of-sync can be a common problem.

STAND-OUT FEATURES

  • Turn Folders into ‘Spaces’ – With Descriptions and Notes
  • Long-Running, Mature Cloud Storage Product
  • Starter Plan is Free

PRICING

  • Basic – Free
  • Professional – $16.58 / Month (1 User)
  • Standard – $37.59 / Month (3 Users)
  • Advanced – $60.00 / Month (3 Users)

ShareFile

Company: Citrix

Class: Basic Cloud Storage

OVERVIEW

ShareFile, by Citrix, works to set itself apart as the business-class edition of an otherwise consumer-focused world of cloud storage. To its credit, ShareFile boasts enhanced security, options for compliance and enhanced workflow tools that allows users to create repeatable process for documents. ShareFile also serves as an easy but secure way to share files with outside parties. ShareFile is not, however, a full-fledged Document Management System and as a result lacks much of the nuanced functionality required by many law firms.

STAND-OUT FEATURES

  • Additional Emphasis on Security Features
  • Granular and Flexible User/Group Permissions
  • Virtual Data Room Option

PRICING

  • Standard – $50 / Month
  • Advanced – $77 / Month
  • Premium – $122 / Month
  • Virtual Data Room – $338 / Month

Box

Company: Box, Inc.Class: Basic Cloud Storage

OVERVIEW

Box is similar to its counterparts but also attempts to be the more business-class focused cloud storage service. Box describes its product as a platform where users can secure, share and edit documents and integrate with other cloud apps. Add-ons include a note-taking app, management tools for IT administrators and more. Like the others in this list, Box may work for a generic business but unfortunately lacks much of the legal-focused functionality required by law firms such as built-in OCR and matter-centricity.

STAND-OUT FEATURES

  • Share Files With Outside Users
  • Create Document Workflows
  • Many Integrations with Other Application

PRICING

  • Business: $15 / User / Month
  • Business Plus: $25 / User / Month
  • Enterprise: $35 / User / Month

More Useful Software for Law Firms

Cloud storage and document management software is the cornerstone of law firm software. But you’ll need more to effectively manage your law firm in the Cloud.

You’ll also need software to manage your law firm’s clients, cases, billing and accounting. Check out our guides on the best Law Practice Management and best Law Firm Accounting software.

More on Law Firm Document Management

Is your firm evaluating cloud storage or document management software? Find the best law firm cloud storage for your law practice: Take a look at our comparison charts below.

Onward and Upward!