Over the last 24 months, two of the biggest factors in tech – mobility and the cloud – have converged to deliver a one-two punch to your traditional file management system. Compared with the cost of hosting your own server and the added complexity of enabling access to it from mobile devices it appears that small firms are completely fine with modular approach to file management systems in 2014.

Public cloud storage services typically use a fermium model to get you hooked and provide excellent out-of-the-box features like backup, versioning, synchronization and excellent mobile apps. Even on the free tiers. So what are they missing? Well, it’s no longer on your premises, so there are concerns with who owns the data and where it’s stored. There is also the question of security – who can access it?

What if these tech factors meant you could roll your own highly available file server that doubles as a secure data room with best of breed access capabilities for remote workers, partners and mobile devices?

In the course of talking security and cloud risk appetite with one large Midwestern business law firm last month, they pulled out their monthly bill for their file access management system, servers and secure data room subscription. It topped $30,000 – a month. That’s a lot of billable hours …

The data room price tag took out a large chunk of their IT budget. This at a time when numerous lawyers were already using Dropbox and Box, and passing along files on two or even three devices. So, we did some counter math on the cost of using cloud sync and share services like Dropbox, Box and Google Drive, in addition to a security and user visibility application for the data itself. The commercial-grade editions of Dropbox, plus user security with Viivo, amounted to about $920 – a year per user. For Box plus Viivo, it was cheaper, at less than $550 a year per user. The public cloud based solutions also have versioning and restore features attorneys can use without IT assistance.

Cost and security aren’t the only factors. But it is an alternative. For smaller and mid-sized firms along with boutique wealth management and M&A brokers that cost differential is compounded. (Around the same time we talked to this bigger business firm, we also heard from a three-man money management firm that was still printing and hand-delivering every single doc in a transaction … oof!)

From the usability and empowerment side of things, it reminds us of one of the reasons lauded entrepreneur Aaron Levie started Box – to go after the “stodgiest, oldest and slowest moving” software. Given their expense and uncelebrated use, that could put the crosshairs over diligence data rooms and file management systems.

To follow through, users need security and compatibility to match their benefits in storage and sharing. The cloud sync and share providers are heavy on the collaboration side, but even their tech leaders emphasize the importance of bringing your own security. In the last year, Viivo included, we’ve made great strides in providing data protection that’s as easy as sharing.

We’ll be talking about this “poor man’s data room” more next month at the 2014 American Bar Association TECHSHOW in Chicago (follow on Twitter under @VIIVOkey and #ABATECHSHOW), as well as with a few trusted legal tech writers over the coming week. Take a look at your data room bill and a realistic view of how your attorneys are using the cloud.