Cloud computing it is just part of our lives now from full infrastructure hosting to the more common application hosting and cloud backups. I have been asked many times about the cloud, what is it? I call is "SES" which is basically “Someone Else’s Server” most commonly it is a higher level virtual system using technology that most small and medium size business don’t want to invest in but need, however from an end user perspective it is just a server providing you with data storage, security and applications.
There are many reasons companies make the decision to move to the cloud a couple of the big ones are flexibility and scalability along with along with not having to maintain in-house servers and infrastructure and improved security. What use to be a long standing perception was that it would provide lower cost, their might be some soft dollar savings in electricity and other small areas. However history has now shown us that the savings that at one time thought to be accurate really don’t exist you are simply moving dollars from one accounting bucket to the other. However, this in itself should not discourage you from considering a cloud solution but thinking you are doing it because it is saving you money should not be the driving force.
If you have implemented a cloud based solution, who owns the data? The answer to that question is it depends on the data, where the creation of the data occurred and the overall nature of the data. This is changing as legislation catches up with technology but it is important when entering into a cloud based agreement that you clearly in our contract state your intentions to exercise your intellectual rights to the data and the work product. There is basically two types of data when it comes to cloud based computing one is user created data that is then uploaded to the cloud, the other is data that is created on a cloud platform. Data that is actually created by the user and uploaded to the cloud is basically covered by copyright laws and does remain the property of the person who created it. However, data that is created on a cloud based platform becomes a little grayer and some questions still apply such as your using the work product of another to create, so would you have created your work product without the help of another? This really comes into play more with cloud based applications and the data and the information stored within a cloud based application.
It is always a good idea to hope for the best but plan for the worst when moving into a cloud based application or full infrastructure model. I have been designing hybrid cloud systems for years to combat and insure that the intellectual rights of my clients are protected and to insure that they have full claim to the data that drives their business. However, it is also important to make sure that during the honeymoon stage of your relationship with your application provider or hosting provider that you clearly state how you are going to separate if that happens. When it comes to applications it is important that you understand that data may be a little harder to get in a format that is usable without the use of the software that created it, so make sure that if you decide to move on that the data you need can be provided to you in a format that can used or viewed by other software.
Some other considerations would be make sure that you have a detailed process on how you are going to request your data, and how that data will be provide to you. This would include timelines, data structure and format to insure that you don’t have to recreate all your historical data. Make sure that you have in writing how long your old provider will hold your system and data before they purge it, this may require a financial commitment on your part, but it is a nice safety net to insure that all your data was migrated properly and is usable on other systems. Make sure that you qualify any costs in obtaining your data, this would be up and beyond the already financial obligations you may have already agreed to depending on the format that you require the data to be provided and the media that it will be provided on.
The key to data in the cloud is to make sure that you upfront in writing put a claim on your data and the intellectual work product of that data regardless of if you are doing simple cloud hosting of data that you created or if you are using a cloud based application. Make sure that you read and understand the language around insuring that you have control of your data and that if you leave you are planning on taking it with you. The legal system and laws are catching up to protect you but make sure that you don’t leave it to others to decide who owns your data.