Moving data to the cloud? The top 5 legal department considerations

This fast paced environment sometime results in organizations making decisions without assessing all the potential risks

One of the hottest information technology (IT) trends is to move data once stored within the corporate firewall into a hosted cloud environment managed by third-party providers. According to Gartner, the public cloud services market is forecast to grow an astonishing 18.5 percent to $131 billion worldwide in 2013, up from $111 billion in 2012. The trend is driven largely by the fact that labor, infrastructure, and software costs can be reduced by sending email and other data to third-party providers for off-site hosting. Although the benefits of cloud computing are real, many organizations make the decision to move to the cloud without thoroughly weighing all the risks and benefits first.

A common problem is that many corporate IT departments fail to consult with their legal department before making the decision to move company data into the cloud even though the decision may have legal consequences. For example, retrieving information from the cloud in response to discovery requests presents unique challenges that could cause delay and increase costs. Similarly, problems related to data access and even ownership could arise if the cloud provider merges with another company, goes bankrupt, or decides to change their terms of service.

3. Where is data physically located?

Knowing where your data is physically located is important because there could be legal consequences. For example, several jurisdictions have their own unique privacy laws that may impact where employee data can be physically located, how it must be stored, and how it can be used. This can result in conflicts where data stored in the cloud is subject to discovery in one jurisdiction, but disclosure is prohibited by the laws of the jurisdiction where the data is stored. Failure to comply with these local foreign laws, sometimes known as blocking statutes, could result in penalties and challenges that might not be circumvented by choice of law provisions. That means knowing where your data will be stored and understanding the applicable laws governing data privacy in that jurisdiction is critical.

Contributing Author

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Matt Nelson

Matthew Nelson is an attorney and legal technology expert with Symantec who has spent the past 15 years helping organizations address a wide array of...

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