Guest Post: Phil Simon on Cloud Computing

the new small

In mid-2010, I started writing The New Small. I wasn’t sure about where my journey would take me, but I knew two things: I wanted to profile a wide range of technologies. I didn’t want to profile a bunch of tech companies.

I was able to kill two birds with one stone when I came across a very progressive law firm based in Minnesota: Skjold-Barthel. The firm threw all of its data and apps into the cloud after some IT issues caused a number of problems, not the least of which was lost revenue. Brass tacks: the firm had to decide if it was in the law business or the IT business.

It decided on the former and moved away from handling its on traditional IT needs. A cloud provider now handles that. In this post, Ben Skjold, the firm’s president, discusses the benefits and challenges of embracing cloud computing.

The cloud has been everything we have expected. We have experienced increased efficiency in the office, but the true gain has been the remote access. Now, the attorneys and staff can work away from the office at nearly the same speed. Not only does this increase the speed of work flow, but it creates a sense of employee autonomy and confidence in the organization.

The reality is that we have saved hard costs. The Firm has taken our capital budget for computers to nearly zero because we did not need to purchase additional servers. Our operational expenditures have remained flat in the first year because of the costs of implementation. Paragon Solutions Group has been outstanding in its responsiveness to some of the unique issues that a law firm has with its software and users. The firm believes the power of the efficiencies will emerge over the course of the first quarter 2011.


As we speak, the Firm is completing its transition to a cloud-based voice over internet protocol (VOIP) telephone system. The Firm had an onsite server-based VOIP system that was initially a great investment that has become obsolete. We are moving to the cloud-based system for both technological enhancements and for certain hard cost savings. It will better interface with our billing software so that we can capture more billable time. Also, we will be able to take advantage of addition flexibility away from the office. Second, we can now eliminate our T1 line and the expense related to the phone line. In turn, this will lead to $12k savings in the first year alone with the potential for additional billings.


The transition to the cloud has not bee without glitches. After one year however, the true power is being realized. We are only beginning to utilize the flexibility of the systems both to work on large files and scale down for the smaller files. We are in the process of continuing to foster a culture conducive to flexible work and build a platform for collaboration and innovation. It’s all very New Small!

Tips for You

  1. Date before you get married. Try sites like Mozy for simple backup just to get your arms around it. Make sure that you’re comfortable before throwing all of your data and apps there.
  2. Dont’ expect clouds to purify bad data or inefficient business processes. Garbage in means garbage out.
  3. Realize that there are security risks with everything, including the cloud. There is  way to keep data completely secure, even if you lock it in a vault in your home.
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  • Dane Findley

    One of the big roadblocks for many companies — large or small — is “operational expenditures remained flat the first year, because of costs of implementation.”

    Everyone wants to *wow* their colleagues with cost-saving strategies that reap instant rewards, but sometimes you have to invest in the long-term.

    However, there is an *edge* to being one of the first to make these kinds of long-term investments in big change. While your competition is waiting for others to prove that it’s viable, you’ll already be off-and-running!

    {twitter = @danenow}

  • Phil Simon

    Thanks, Dane. Cloud computing may have not been “mature” five years ago, as I write in the book. It’s more than ready for prime time now, as many companies are discovering.

  • Bryon Lucas

    I tried to tweet this post but it won’t share. I am trying to reshare it.

    • Amy Rose Brown

      The tweet button at the top of the post seems to be working fine for us! Is it still not working for you? Let us know and we’ll look into fixing it.

  • Lorita Buer

    Great article! Very well written and informative. I’ve actually been looking for some good content on cloud computing and I’m happy to have found your site. Keep up the good work. Looking forward to reading more posts like this one.

  • Teressa Ledec

    Looking at an offer for a second hand one of these just now I have to say the UI might well be the deciding factor here more so than the specs.