Upgrading Software…. Should I?

Out of date software can quite often cause serious issues with compliance.

If you are in a position where you are asking yourself this question, then the answer is highly likely to be “yes”!

I have seen many situations where the progress of a law firm’s efficiency is being held back significantly because it is using completely outdated and sometimes unsupported software! This can have a dramatic impact on some of the key areas of the firm including the accounts department.

Out of date software can quite often cause serious issues with compliance. This is not necessarily because of the entries and records entered onto it, but simply because it cannot keep up to date with the latest changes from operating systems such as Windows and Mac OS. Even the smallest changes in operating system functionality can cause data file corruption in unsupported software. Many old systems operate using a single or very few data files. These data files are used to populate the fields seen within the system such as accounts ledgers and reports. If they become corrupted it is very likely that the ledgers we wish to view and the reports we wish to render will be completely incorrect and will in effect, breach the SRA Accounts Rules.

Further issues can occur on out of date software if it does not work on the latest operating systems (OS). The current OS being widely used are Windows 10 and Mac OS 10.15. These systems are kept fully up to date and are being regularly upgraded with the latest security and patches. Many old systems simply will not work on these new OS and can only function on Windows 7, Vista and in some cases XP whose support ended in April 2014! The main issue with using such out of date versions to keep old software running is the security aspect. The latest version of Windows is constantly providing security updates to avoid hackers and scammers. Without that security the whole system may be open to viruses, malware and even ransomware, where hackers lock out all data and demand money for its release.

Backing up old databases is hugely important when running one of these systems. There is no other way to save data without doing manual backups when using unsupported software. This means the onus is on the firm to backup onto either a physical drive, a CD or potentially a server depending on the rest of the IT infrastructure. Most newer packages do not require the firm to provide physical/manual backups as the data is held in a datacentre provided by the software company. Further risk to data may come when a system restore is taken from the physical backup. All entries made subsequent-to the backup will be lost and will need to be re-entered. There is always a risk that the backup becomes corrupt and upon restoring will present an inaccurate picture of the case and accounts position, breaching SRA rules.

After taking into account all the data security issues associated with old and/or non-supported software, there is also the question of efficiency. Working on old systems is usually more difficult than new ones. This is usually due to the software being on an old computer which itself will run very slowly. Using old hardware as well as software is incredibly inefficient considering how cheap computers are to buy in 2020. Time wasted waiting for a computer to respond costs the firm dearly in the long run as this will result in more people being employed to cover the workload or less work being done so the firm misses out on more revenue. This by far outweighs the cost of a new computer and new software.

Another aspect to consider is that new packages have all sorts of helpful additions which can make life a lot easier and help a firm become more profitable in the longer term. For example, newer software is generally designed for firms to have digital client files where all documents can be saved online without the need for a hefty paper file. This saves significant time and resources printing documents and filing them in the correct order to satisfy file audits. This feature alone could cut a firm’s staffing overhead significantly or could free up time with the current staff base and allow for more work to come in to increase turnover. Other features include online form integration, automated legal-aid submissions, and automated searches for property matters. All these new bonus features chip away at the time spent, increasing the firm’s efficiency piece by piece. Generally, these updated features are added with new software at little or no extra cost. The subscription fee keeps you fully up to date with the latest developments.

In closing, considering the cost in time, security and compliance, it is certainly better to upgrade your software from an out of date/non supported system to one that works on a subscription basis which keeps you fully up to date with the latest security and features.

Written by Alex Simons

New Business Manager
The Law Factory LLP


Posted on 27.07.20