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Business Model

Question asked by alahser on Aug 21, 2008
Latest reply on Jul 16, 2009 by dfladmin

There is a long segway, so, you can skip to "BUSINESS MODEL" below, if you wish

I am considering using Alfresco in my law practice. We want to allow clients complete, secret, and secure access to their electronic records. That is, we want to store the files locally, then have them immediately available through an https website with an email notification to the client. I know Alfresco can do much more than this, but, keeping good communication with the client is one of an attorney's biggest responsibilities and one of the main reasons for attorney discipline. Lawyers are afraid of not properly communicating with their clients (or they should be).

My office has 1 attorney. We practice IP law, especially patents. So, my office is small when compared to annual fee per processor for alfresco. At the same time, document integrity is the primary concern. The client information and records we keep is highly confidential, especially prior to filing. In trade secret cases, the information is confidential indefinitely. Whatever stores my documents has to be at least as reliable as the file server it is replacing. Therefore, I'm not getting the sense that the "Community Labs" version would be recommended for my use.

There is no way for a small law office to meet my requirements at any reasonable cost. The main problem is that most licensing schemes require a "per user" licensing fee. I have about 200 clients and 2 staff, so, that becomes 202 licenses if I want all the clients to have access. I have tried to make an exhaustive search for a simple DMS system, but, either I don't feel I can trust the software or the cost (and features) are beyond my means.

Alfesco meets the requirements of small law firms like mine (even the older, stable versions). Admittedly, its a jackhammer when only a chisel is needed.


So, I want to make sure that Alfresco is aware of another business model. If you have not seen the "trixbox" project and company, please do – they sell VOIP systems to small business. I'm not sure about the link policy for these forums, so please delete this sentence, if appropriate: the websites are: http:\\ and http:\\
In particular, you want to look at the licensing model for Trixbox PRO.

Trixbox calls their business model "hybrid hosted," which means that the equipment is on the customer premises (and the customer has control over the sensitive data) but the administration is done remotely and automatically. They charge a monthly fee (by user, but, they could also do so by processor, etc).

The customer experience is this: 1) buy a server (and other equipment) that meets the trixbox specification (they provide specific model numbers from specific vendors); 2) download the iso, burn a CD, and install; 3) configure and register; 4) system updates itself (patches, etc); 5) forget about it.  The "Support" that you are paying for is the automated attendance of the trixbox phone system. No other software can be installed on the server. Users are not allowed to "fiddle" at anything other than the User Interface (GUI) level, that is, your not supposed to log in as root and fiddle with the configuration files. There are probably other limitations to keep the systems as uniform as possible for automated support. I know they have some capability for detecting (and notifying) in the event of hardware problems as well.

I think there is a market for this in small law firms. Don't take my word for it. There is a discussion list by the American Bar Association called SOLOSEZ (google it). We discuss legal topics usually. Also discussed is frustration with information technology. You can search for prior posts discussing frustration with document management systems (most lawyers use WOLRDOX, but that can't automate the communication with the client, as far as I know) on a reasonably regular basis.

I realize that this is my first post, that maybe this business model is unproven, that maybe the engineering costs for developing such a system are risky, and that maybe the small law firm market may not be lucrative. But, I put this forward for whatever benefit it provides Alfresco.

Oh, and, thank you for a lovely open source system.

Best Regards,