Speaking of “Shouldn’t it just work“, I have been thinking that a sole practitioner or small firm actually is now at an advantage over larger firms regarding technology.
Software required to run law firms – such as accounting and document management – has typically been created specifically for law firms. That means it is not cheap, and is rarely cutting edge.
But tools are now available that give essentially the same functionality (or at least the 80% that one actually needs) that are low cost and easy to use. Online accounting services for example, or OneNote and search tools to locate documents.
If one has a few people in an office, that usually means setting up a server – which is simple for an IT person, but a daunting task for a lawyer.
One option is to set up a Windows Home Server. It essentially works like a normal server (WHS is actually a front end bolted onto Windows Server 2003), and allows up to 10 users. I can attest to how easy it is to set up and use WHS, as I just bought a new PC at home, and converted the 5 year old PC I replaced into a WHS.
Most people would just buy the Hewlett Packard WHS product and plug it in (which I would suggest for any office use) – but I saved a lot of $ by just buying a couple of hard drives and a few other bits. ( startech.com – a company based here in London – makes all kinds of parts to connect things together).
The WHS will automatically back up PC’s, or better still can be used as a true server to hold the files, and can be accessed remotely. Data can be duplicated accross multiple drives to give redundancy in case of hard drive failure. Capacity is measured in terabytes – which not too long ago was considered supercomputer territory.
And from a user perspective – it is extremely simple to set up and use.