Attorneys beware: The danger of storing information in the cloud

Cloud storage has logistical benefits, but can pose security concerns

In recent years, storing information in the cloud has certainly been a hot topic among law firms all over the world. The thought of adapting to this new storage option has sparked controversy about the pros and cons of the cloud. It can definitely be a dangerous road for attorneys to travel if they are not careful.

“Clouds,” as they are often called, are large “server farms” where high-powered computers are kept in a large warehouse. Cloud providers are typically third parties that serve clients from a variety of professions, ranging from manufacturers to retail stores, to service-based businesses (such as lawyers), to entertainment companies and more.

Challenges for legal data

Privacy and security concerns are paramount for legal professionals when using the cloud. It is difficult to ensure the confidentiality of client data since the computers containing that information may be in an unknown location outside the jurisdiction where a law firm practices, perhaps even outside the U.S. Additionally, the site may be administered by non-legal staff with access to the firm’s data. This raises the possibility of a breach of ethical duty to keep a client’s information confidential.

When choosing a vendor, companies and their counsel should research the following and determine how closely a vendor aligns with their most common needs:

  • Data retention and archiving
  • Data discoverability by a third party (with or without consent)
  • Ability for cloud company’s staff to sign an affidavit
  • Privacy and security policies for employees
  • Experience and familiarity with legal holds, including the ability to enact a selective litigation hold
  • Ability to obtain documents from the cloud in a timely fashion
  • If deletion can be certified (typically required in protective orders)
  • Forensic collection procedures (and whether you can specify a vendor to come into their facilities and collect)
  • Logging information—how much is kept and for how long
  • Data transfer rates (particularly for litigation document review repositories)
  • Experience with production requests


Contributing Author

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Gavin Manes

Dr. Gavin Manes is a nationally recognized expert in e-discovery and digital forensics who is currently the President and CEO of Avansic, a Tulsa-based company...

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Contributing Author

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Tom O'Connor

A nationally known lawyer and eDiscovery expert, Tom O’Connor is Director of Professional Services at Avansic. Based in New Orleans, Tom is best known for...

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