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E-Discovery Cloud Computing (Part 1 of 4)

The Lawyer’s Guide to Cloud Computing

August 9, 2012

So what is cloud computing? Cloud computing is a general term for the delivery of hosting and other services over the Internet. Instead of storing data locally, the data and data applications are stored remotely, with access to the data provided via the Internet (the “cloud” in “cloud computing”).

Whatever the specific form, the singular characteristic of cloud computing is separation of the computer hardware from the service. The major advantage of a cloud computing solution is its elasticity- the consumer is charged by use, can make as little or as much use of the service as desired, and need not purchase, maintain, or upgrade any computer hardware.

Once data is hosted in the cloud, all the consumer needs is a personal computer and access to the Internet. Some of the many players in this space include Amazon, Google, Dropbox, Hewlett-Packard, and Microsoft.  These companies and many others offer some flavor of cloud computing to corporations and individuals.

When deciding whether cloud computing is right for your organization or firm, several aspects of cloud computing should be considered due to their significant impact on electronic discovery (“e-discovery”). Further, these issues must be known and understood by your clients before e-discovery commences. Just as all of your confidential information may best be left off the cloud, so too may your clients’.

In this series of blog posts we will explore the important points for counsel and clients when determining whether or not cloud is appropriate for their situation and needs. Our hope is that these topics will allow the reader the make an educated decision when weighing the risk and rewards of using cloud computing services.

First things first: Before adopting or deploying cloud-based solutions for your enterprise, or for a specific litigation matter, client and counsel must engage with the IT, business and legal units. Cloud computing, while convenient and cost-efficient, is not without its fair share of risk. A thorough and continuous in-house dialogue will ensure that all of your team is on the same page with regards to risk and rewards of using the cloud.

Second, while “cloud” references provide a useful metaphorical tool, in reality the data still sits on a server. Care should be taken to ensure that this physical location, and the electronic security surrounding it, is appropriate and sufficiently robust.

In my next post I will look more closely at the some of the potential risks of off-site data hosting and important questions you may want to consider before you enter the cloud.

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