It is new software
LEAP Office Cloud is not just LEAP Office 10 set up in a hosted environment. It is newly written software that utilises the industry standard SQL database. Non-cloud LEAP Office (Classic) uses the 4D database.
The cloud project began five years ago in late 2007. At the start of 2010 LEAP launched a cloud product known as LEAP Expedite. LEAP Expedite has been “sunsetted” and in its place is LEAP Office Cloud. Unlike LEAP Office Cloud, LEAP Expedite did not have time recording, accounting or billing.
In mid-2012 LEAP Conveyancer was released. This replaced non-cloud LEAP Office Conveyancer Edition. LEAP Conveyancer is essentially LEAP Office Cloud customised for conveyancers.
Matter accounting and documents come together
One of the most significant developments with LEAP Office Cloud is that accounting and documents have been merged into the one piece of software. LEAP Office Classic is comprised of LEAP Documents and LEAP Accounting which are two pieces of software connected by a link for synchronisation purposes.
Time recording and reporting are also launched from within LEAP Office Cloud.
The LEAP Office Cloud application is required to be installed on each local computer that will be using it. Locally installed desktop Word is required and the application runs only in a Windows environment. It will run on Macs using Bootcamp or Parallels.
So you might ask, how is this cloud computing when it requires a desktop application which is integrated with desktop Word?
The answer is that the cloud version does not require a locally installed server. The server is now in a data centre. This allows for anytime access from any computer as long as it is connected to the internet and has LEAP Office Cloud installed on it. The usual terminology for such a setup is hybrid cloud.
Hybrid cloud enables offline usage of the software. It has the added benefit that it eliminates instances of internet lag because the software is used locally. It also means that users continue to use versions of Microsoft applications with which they are familiar.
This design approach has meant that users experience the benefits of the cloud and the benefits of working locally. While purists might claim that LEAP Office Cloud is not “true” cloud, it can just as correctly be described as a solution that takes advantage of the best of both worlds, i.e. the cloud and a local powerful Windows environment.
How is data managed?
Documents are created locally. New matters are opened and stored on the local desktop. Clearly the documents and matters created by one user have to be available to other users. The key activity that makes this possible is synchronisation.
Locally created documents and matters are synched to the server in the cloud.
How the syncing should be done – whether for documents, matter details or accounting information – was one of most challenging design aspects of LEAP Cloud. The experience with LEAP Expedite helped to come up with a solution that overcame this complexity.
What this means for document creation is a behind-the-scenes process of automatically saving multiple versions of documents. It does not matter how many people are working on a document on different local computers because each version is synced up to the cloud and the different versions are retained and available to everyone.
Another challenge that had to be overcome was how to avoid extensive and time consuming uploads and downloads of data. The solution was nothing less than genius. Content is only downloaded to the local computer when the user wants to view it or work on it. For example, when you look at a list of documents associated with a matter, it is only when you open the document that the system makes sure that you have the latest version of it locally, and if not, will download it for you.
Give and take
The LEAP Cloud project has essentially been about re-creating market-leading software for a cloud environment. The opportunity was taken to do some de-cluttering by omitting functionality that was little used in the classic version.
The opportunity was also taken to improve some core functionality such as the integration of accounting and documents into the one application. Emailing has also been enhanced. It is now performed from within the familiar environment of Outlook, yet emails are still recorded on matters.
Functionality that has not been incorporated into the early release of the software has not been ruled out for future updates. In the current release there is no facility to create custom matter types. On the other hand the software already comes with about 1,000 standard matter types.
At present, electronic conversions from other programs, including from LEAP Office classic, are not available.
LEAP Office Cloud continues the LEAP model of using a third party general ledger accounting program. It is designed to be linked to a locally installed copy of MYOB AccountRight.
Storage and security
The LEAP Office Cloud subscription also includes your data storage costs which is a big bonus. All data transported across the internet is encrypted. As far as data security and confidentiality is concerned the location and setup of the LEAP Host Servers is impressive. The LEAP IT infrastructure design is based on what is called the N+1 redundancy standard. What this means is that for every piece of hardware, there is another that is identical in every way. Network connections have dual paths and power feeds are separate. This gives the LEAP infrastructure a level of tolerance in the event of hardware or network failure, ensuring continued access to the server. In any event, because of the hybrid cloud design, you can keep working even if the connection is lost.
The servers are located in large data hosting utilities run by Equinix and Macquarie Telecom and sit alongside the servers of banks and airlines – arguably a lot safer than in an ordinary legal office.
LEAP Office Cloud’s key benefits:
• No need for a server;
• Portability – work from anywhere;
• Backups taken care of at the secure data centre;
• IT infrastructure and labour cost savings;
• The integration of documents and legal accounting in a single application;
• Emailing enhancements;
• New functionality around critical dates, task flow and reminders;
• The thousands of forms and precedents that are integrated with LEAP are updated to the latest versions on the cloud server;
• Ease with which Trust End of Month requirements are completed.