Pricing is not the most important factor affecting your choice of practice management software. You wouldn't buy an incomplete, unsuitable product just because it was cheap. But pricing is important. Similarly, up-front and monthly prices are only part of the cost picture, yet often serve as a rough filter for narrowing the field.
The differing characteristics of network and Cloud products result in different costs. Both types of practice management software take time or money or both for data conversion and for learning a new way of doing things. Beyond those initial outlays, network and Cloud-based software differ in the timing and types of your investment of dollars and hours.
11/25/2012 - Pricing is subject to change without notice. Not responsible for errors in listed pricing. Please check with the software vendors' websites for the latest price information.
Different Attitudes and Total Cost of Ownership
Some attorneys don't like the idea of paying monthly subscription fees indefinitely. They prefer the feeling of owning their network practice management software and of having control over when they spend money to upgrade it.
Other attorneys like the predictable nature of Cloud practice management software costs. They don't like the feeling of suddenly having to pay large sums to upgrade network practice management software, replace a server and upgrade multiple computers with new software all at once.
Cloud software vendors cite studies that show that the Total Cost of Ownership for their services is significantly lower than for network software. They take into account the costs of maintaining and replacing servers, server software, database software, practice management software upgrades, and consulting services to keep the practice management software running properly.
But you are not an average of other customers. Your Total Cost of Ownership depends on your particular circumstances and needs of your practice areas. In making a decision about practice management software, it pays to weigh the alternatives.
Network Practice Management Software
Network practice management software is installed on a server or other computer in your office. Other users may access this shared resources using a wired or wireless network (although some programs do not work well with wireless).
Network software requires a significant, up-front investment in practice management software, a server, and time and money to install and customize the software.
Every three years, more or less, a firm may need to upgrade its server, server operating system, server database software and office software in order to keep current with their network practice management software. The firm may also need to pay for assistance in upgrading to each annual release of its practice management, timekeeping and billing software.
Cloud Practice Management Software
Cloud practice management software is hosted on servers owned and professionally managed by the vendor. You and others access it over the Internet using Web browsers on your computers, tablets and smartphones.
Cloud software require no up-front investment of money in software or computers or time for installation, but may require time and money to customize the software.
With Cloud practice management, upgrades are performed automatically by the vendor. The law firm does not need to spend time and money on installation of new releases.
Apples and Oranges - Cloud Subscriptions vs. Software Maintenance and Upgrades
I can be difficult to compare overall Cloud software costs to overall network software costs. Cloud software costs are very predictable. But overall network software costs are not.
Network software typically has high up-front costs. But the costs for firms that buy annual maintenance contracts for networks software are lower than Cloud software subscriptions. Other firms that don't pay for maintenance plans face large software upgrade costs at irregular intervals. Both kinds of firms face unpredictable costs for upgrade installations, troubleshooting, and server maintenance and replacement.
The pricing, above, is current as of 11/25/2012. It does not include annual maintenance costs for network software except where those costs are mandatory for the first year of ownership.
If your firm already has a relatively new server and already owns current network practice management software, then you don't need to pay the new software costs for network software.
If you are interested in the possibility of switching to Cloud practice management software, it is advisable to estimate the five-year total cost of ownership of each of your options.
Many offices will continue to own and maintain a file server whether or not they choose to switch to Cloud practice management software; however, attractive options are available for outsourcing servers to the Cloud.
Hybrid options are available for getting the best of the professional management and accessibility of files in the Cloud and also direct access to files locally if Internet service is interrupted. A traditional file servers, along with its high price and maintenance requirements, may or may not have in your office 5 years from now.
Note: Network software pricing often has a variety of options and prices. Those listed here are a sampling of some of the pricing for some offerings. Check the corresponding websites for options and details on included features and costs.
For more information about your practice management options and how various products may or may not work well for you, please contact us.
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