Lexis Gets the 'Cloud'

Computing in the Cloud (f.k.a. SaaS, Hosted Applications, ASP, Thin Client computing, etc.) is all the rage these days. And it incites a high level of emotion amongst both its supporters and detractors. Those holding back against the Cloud trend point to security of information (for lawyers this is your clients’ information) as the reason not to move into the Cloud. Supporters note that 1) moving into the Cloud adds levels of collaborative functionality and service that client/server tools can’t match, and 2) the Cloud can be much more secure than self-hosted and maintained information. The problem is that both sides are right. Moving client information into unknown and ill-defined Clouds can lead to bad consequences. Meanwhile, trying to stay up on fast changing and conflicting security concerns on your own is daunting, at a minimum. And on top of that, just try to keep up with collaborative technology innovations. What is needed is a highly trusted Cloud that will host client information in a well-defined and known set of locations. Ideally this will be a provider with years of experience hosting mission critical information. You know … something like case law or numerous other sources of legal content. The challenge with that type of vendor would be their willingness to host applications from third parties. I had the opportunity recently to hear a ‘Cloud’ presentation from Lexis. My expectations were low, looking forward to an hour of Buzzword bingo. However, I was more than pleasantly surprised. Terry Williams, VP Managed Technology Solutions, talked at length about how Lexis has seen this coming and actually DONE something about it. They are already hosting third party applications in the e-discovery arena and are moving out beyond that realm into other legal applications. And get this – they are even exploring hosting general (non-legal specific) applications. When I asked him my $64 Dollar Cloud question (what about hosting MS Exchange?) he didn’t flinch. Although they are not quite willing to answer this question yet, they have at least asked it. The potential result would be an option for law firms to eventually move all of their software and data into a trusted Cloud. When it comes to securing your data in this scenario, Lexis will even give you the option of naming both your primary and secondary data center locations (insuring your data stays on-shore). Someone pinch me – I must be dreaming. Terry said to expect more information and announcements in the coming months. Their intention is to move fast, since nimbleness counts for so much these days.

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Matt Horn said...

Sounds like Lexis is offering services already provided by Amazon (http://aws.amazon.com/) and other market leaders Microsoft, Google and Yahoo.

Tom Rowe said...

I am curious ... why would you be surprised that LexisNexis is interested in the Cloud? They've been offering online services long before the Cloud was cool. They have one of the largest data center operations in the US. Many of the their recent acquisitions like Accurint have involved highly secure online services. With the exception of the relatively small desktop software applications they recently acquired (Time Matters, PCLaw, Juris) almost everything they do is in the Cloud. What's to be surprised about?

Toby Brown said...

To Tom's comment/question - what's surprising is Lexis hosting competitors' software. It's not that surprising that Lexis would move their own applications into the cloud, but enabling competitors by hosting their software is not the normal course of business for them. As explained to me, they are even integrating third party applications with their own.

To Matt's comment - yes those other providers do host applications. The difference as I see it is 1) you don't always know where your data is, and 2) although these providers are known and deep pockets, they have not been hosting mission critical law firm data on the scale Lexis and other legal research providers have. That existing level of trust brings a unique value.

Danny Johnson said...

We can't forget that Lexis had a partnership distribution partnership with NetDocuments (SaaS Document Management) and NetDocuments still hosts its data at the Lexis data center.


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