The risks in cloud computing

I am working with a small team on a presentation /debate for ILTA 2010 where we have a booth this year. The topic for discussion is:

ILTA 2010 – INFO13: No Dark Clouds in the Forecast: Addressing Risks in Cloud Computing

This session will address the challenges and risks law firms face with the movement towards cloud computing, including risks with privacy and security, as well as records management issues. What are the problems with cloud computing when you do not have complete control over your information? How can IT address these problems?

With me on the panel will be Charlene Wacenske, Firm Wide Records Manager at Morrison & Foerster LLP and Scott Christensen, Director, Information Services at Wildman Harrold Allen & Dixon.

Having had literally hundreds of discussions on this topic with CIO’s of some of the most conservative, risk averse law firms around I feel well prepared for the debate. With a little preparation we have come up with some of the high level risks as follows:

  • Privileged user access – who has access to your data?
  • Data privacy laws – where is my data and how do I ensure it stays put?
  • Security – a long conversation can be had on this topic alone!
  • Vendor risk – bankruptcy and vendor lock-in
  • A sense that your data is outside of your physical control
  • Vendor choice – the high cost of low price
  • Data Segregation
  • Legal holds – how do they apply in the cloud?
  • Auditing / Subpoena – what if the vendor is forced to produce your data?
  • Records – how is final disposition applied?

While this might seem a daunting list of reasons not to use cloud services, the risk averse customer would be well advised to take them one at a time in each case exploring the actual implications with  prospective cloud vendor. When we started nScaled, we began by interviewing CIO’s and asking them why they were not moving their critical infrastructure and data to the cloud. What we found was that the business model of cloud services was highly appealing, but it came down to vendor choice. Public clouds for all their benefits of low cost, elasticity and flexibility were simply not able to offer services levels which address the concerns above (along with others).

nScaled now differentiates ourselves from the competition on these points and others. Our rapidly expanding customer list shows that we have hopefully cracked this nut.