There was a time when looking at the formation and colour of clouds was the only way to predict impending weather. And who hasn’t cloudwatched,imagining that a cloud formation resembles some object or animal? Well, in today’s everevolving technological world, people can also store data off-site on virtual clouds. But why would they do that, and should you jump on the bandwagon too?
Gabe Acevedo, a Washington, DC-based attorney who specialises in e-discovery law, says he is bemused by the anxiety cloud computing often creates, because the system is in fact rather simplistic. ‘Documents are stored somewhere else other than in your computer,’ he explains. ‘It’s not on your hard drive and exists in some weird space.’ However, Carrie Mallen, director of e-discovery and records information management for boutique litigation law firm Bartko, Zankel, Tarrant & Miller, says there’s much more to understand about cloud computing.
First, rather than labelling it ‘cloud computing’, she says it’s probably more accurate to say you are considering the use of ‘cloud services.’ Cloud services are a cost-effective way to manage a company’s electronically stored information, which includes all electronic files or other data stored on computers, disks, tapes or other media. ‘General business and regulatory requirements, preservation of evidence for e-discovery according to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure [FRCP] and other compliance efforts require the storage of enormous amounts of data,’ says Mallen. Cloud services provide that storage space – at a price.
There are two types of clouds: public and private.
Public data clouds are owned by a third-party vendor that creates and controls the cloud’s terms of service (TOS) as well as controlling the user’s ability to access information. Examples of public clouds are Facebook and Gmail. A private cloud is one where the user purchases data space from a third-party vendor. The user then has the ability to control the cloud’s TOS, implementing methods for accessing and distributing data from the cloud.
Deciding whether to use a public or private cloud can make a major difference when it comes to the vulnerability of the data being stored. Since the third-party vendor owns the cloud, they decide what triggers their duty to divulge the information subject to subpoena. This can be a key issue when it comes to e-discovery lawsuits.
According to Jeffrey K. Brandt, a principal with Brandt Professional Services in Ashburn, Virginia, it all boils down to control. In a private cloud, ‘you create the TOS, not someone else. With Facebook, for example, they decide the TOS and whether to give up information and so on,’ says Brandt, a strategic consultant for law firms who has a lengthy professional background managing C-level functions on e-discovery. When another entity has control over your documents, understanding what the TOS allows and does not allow is critical, and shouldn’t be taken lightly.