Understanding tech buzzwords like a Distributed Cloud
24 Oct 2023
When we think of law firms, a number of things come to mind. One of them is information – the access to it and the use of it. And information in this day and age means data.
If you are a law firm, you understand the sheer vast amounts of data that you have access to on a daily basis. Data that you won’t only need to access both from the office and at home (often on the go too) but also data that needs to be properly stored and protected (as the Protection of personal Information Act 4 of 2013 or POPIA dictates).
Let’s call the sheer volume of data, “Big Data”. It has a kind of seriousness about it.
The compounding problem with big data? The storage of it.
With space being a commodity and hard to come by, where and how you are going to safely store big data comes into question. That is until the advent of the Cloud.
The Cloud, as a refresher, is a collection of networked computer hardware that work together to provide aspects of computing. Only online.
The simplest example of how “everyday people” use “the Cloud” is through Dropbox and iCloud to store photos, email, music, calendars, contacts and other data in a central location (accessible from whatever device you happen to be using at the time).
Storing big data in the Cloud has become the best solution – a “place” if you will, to store data that is both secure and easily accessible. It’s also a place that doesn’t require physical space. And it can be accessed from any device.
That’s one big solution for big data.
The other benefit of a cloud solution? More specifically a hosted cloud server (with improved security measures)? They provide cloud-based storage that allows legal professionals to operate remotely (and in the cloud) whilst also providing teams with more opportunities for online collaboration.
AJS products are all cloud-based which means that authorised users can access their system securely from anywhere, on almost any device.
And it would seem – on the face of it at least – that that’s where the silver lining in this Cloud ends. But you would be wrong.
Enter – the Distributed Cloud.
What is a Distributed Cloud?
According to IBM, a distributed cloud is –
“a public cloud computing service that lets you run public cloud infrastructure in multiple locations – your own cloud provider’s data centers, other cloud providers’ data centers, third-party data centers or colocation centers, and on-premises – manage everything from a single control plane.
With this targeted, centrally managed distribution of public cloud services, your business can deploy and run applications or individual application components in a mix of cloud locations and environments that best meets your requirements for performance, regulatory compliance, and more”.
Or in layman’s terms a distributed cloud service is a public cloud (read – multiple clouds) that runs in multiple locations.
Hold up just a second. What exactly is a public cloud?
According to VM Ware, “a public cloud is comprised of on-demand computing services and infrastructure that is managed by a third-party provider and shared with multiple organisations using the internet. Cloud service providers use groups of data centres that are partitioned into virtual machines and shared by tenants. Tenants may simply rent the use of those virtual machines, or they may pay for additional cloud-based services such as software applications, application development tools, or storage”.
It’s important to note that despite there being multiple locations and possibly geographies involved – because that doesn’t seem ideal, does it? – the cloud services are all managed from one single source or one single control panel that handles any inconsistencies that may arise.
By having a distributed cloud, a business (including a law firm) will be able to meet regulatory or governance compliance mandates – as set out by POPIA.
How you may be asking? Well, with law firms that have offices in foreign jurisdictions, various government regulations like the EU’s GDPR demands that data be located in specific jurisdictions which may or may not be supported by a given public cloud provider, thus making a distributed cloud a necessity (VM Ware).
What are the benefits of a Distributed Cloud?
The thing with a distributed cloud is that it is on an as you need it basis. As IBM sets out –
A distributed cloud distributes –
“a public cloud provider’s entire compute stack to wherever a customer might need it – on-premises in the customer’s own data center or private cloud, or off-premises in one or more public cloud data centers that may or may not belong to the cloud provider.
In effect, distributed cloud extends the provider’s centralised cloud with geographically distributed micro-cloud satellites. The cloud provider retains central control over the operations, updates, governance, security and reliability of all distributed infrastructure. And the customer accesses everything – the centralised cloud services, and the satellites wherever they are located – as a single cloud and manages it all from a single control plane”.
So, simply put – wherever you need the cloud, it’s there. And you have a cloud provider that sees to the updates and security of the data. A single cloud is also managed from a single plane in multiple locations and geographies. That’s freedom of movement – keeping in mind governance and regulations law firms are required to follow in multiple locations – which is especially important for the law firm that’s setting their sights overseas.
But that’s just part of it.
Besides an “as you need it” approach, a distributed cloud can boost performance because it eliminates latency issues and reduces the risk of global network outages and control plane issues.
Big plusses. There’s also –
- Scalability – expanding a dedicated data centre or building new centres in different geographies can be expensive and time-consuming. A distributed cloud enables the expansion of a company to different locations and jurisdictions without having to incur massive costs to ensure access to and protection of data in geographies that may be unfamiliar.
- Lower latency – with a distributed cloud, data is in essence processed locally instead of at a centralised server. This not only results in a superior user experience but also reduces latency and increases the responsiveness of services.
- Compliance with regulations – many data privacy laws prohibit personal information from leaving the country. A distributed cloud infrastructure makes it much easier for organisations to process personal information where users live. Doing away with that extra stress entirely.
- Content delivery – because data is processed locally instead of a centralised server, storing and delivering videos and other content closer to where the users are located, a distributed cloud can improve streaming video content performance and the overall user experience.
- Internet of Things – many applications rely on real-time data analysis, including smart buildings, video surveillance, manufacturing automation, self-driving cars, and healthcare applications. These applications cannot wait for data to travel to a central data centre. Distributed clouds deliver low latency for these applications (Synopsys).
- Flexibility – a distributed cloud simplifies the installation, deployment, and debugging of new services. Why? Because it’s all managed from one central plane (VM Ware).
Despite these benefits, one must keep in mind that backing up data will become crucial. Businesses and law firms that implement a distributed cloud strategy may need to rethink their backup process and recovery strategies to ensure that data stays in the right place, protected and secure.
At the end of the day, having your data safely stored in the cloud, knowing that you will not only have access to it regardless of which geographical location you may be in, but also keeping in mind the burdensome privacy laws and regulations worldwide, a distributed cloud seems like the perfect solution. Perhaps, in this case at least, having all your eggs in one basket is not a bad thing. As long as you back up your data and ensure that your data is always secure.
When shopping around for your latest legal tech investment, don’t get hoodwinked by the overuse of technical buzzwords or empty promises of providing you the world – “Sure, we can help you with a healthy a Distributed Cloud” – because once you understand what the word means, you will know whether they are a smart investment or not.
If you have any queries relating to legal tech and how you can incorporate it into your practice, get-in-touch and let’s see how we can take your software solution from good to phenomenal.
If you don’t have any software supporting your legal practice yet, it’s not a problem. We are here to help you from scratch too.
AJS – as always – has your back!
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