Cloud computing is a broad term that compasses everything from Facebook and Twitter to Google Docs and Amazon Virtual Private Clouds. At its simplest, cloud computing is the practice of making applications, software, or other services available to consumers on-demand over the Internet. Many businesses have started to use cloud computing services for their productivity as not all computer brands manufacturers are able to provide customers with a cheap and high-quality product. For example, a company may use Amazon’s Simple Storage Service to store their company’s data on the web freeing up the time and resources storing the data on a private server would take.

While the use of cloud computing services can change the way businesses run and consumers interact, users should be aware of the risks and educated in protecting their privacy and data before signing up with a provider.

Benefits of Cloud Computing

  • Allows users to make use of applications, services, and software they would otherwise not have the physical or technical capabilities to use
  • Prevents data loss by placing data on servers that are more reliable and secure. Such servers often store data in multiple locations.
  • Allows data to be accessed from any computer with the required Internet connection
  • Increases productivity and efficiency by allowing resources to be used on expanding business function as opposed to the upkeep of technology

Drawbacks of Cloud Computing

  • The data owner does not have direct supervision over the data processors
  • Data placed in the “cloud” (ie: the Internet) is less protected than data that remains in a private computer or network
  • Technology has outpaced the ability of the government to develop timely regulations and ensure privacy.
  • The data owner loses complete control over data accessibility and destruction. Problems such as data outages, wrongly employed encryption, accidental deletion, and failed destruction of files are all risks involved with storing data with a cloud computing service.

When considering placing personal information or important business information with a cloud computing service there are several things to consider:

Reliability and Viability

Using a Software as a Service (Saas) provider means trusting another company with sensitive information that is vital to business function. Companies looking to move their information databases to a cloud service should do a fair amount of research before locking in with one particular vendor.

  • Find out the number of companies the vendor services.
  • Read user testimonials.
  • Find out the history and mission of the company.

Nothing is worse than trusting important information to a company that may be plagued with data outages, dealing with legal issues, or going bankrupt. Ensuring that the data will be protected and can be instantly and immediately accessed through the cloud service should be a top priority.


Many cloud computing services lock-in their users by making it extremely difficult to download large quantities of data after it has been loaded. Bulk downloads are not a standard part of most services and fees may be charged for the downloading of files. Make sure to investigate a service thoroughly before uploading information as it may be extremely costly and time-consuming to switch service providers.


A data owner is still legally responsible for protecting the privacy and integrity of data that is serviced by a third party. If a cloud computing company paid by a business to process customer data violates the privacy of the customers, the business will be subject to any legal ramifications. Some cloud services store their data in countries without data protection laws so that they may collect and store personally identifiable information without implementing privacy policies. Individuals and business owners should investigate every service provider to ensure they comply with U.S., E.U., and any other relevant data protection laws.

Service Level Agreement or End User License Agreement

An SLA or EULA or another formal contract should be signed upon entering into business with a service provider. These documents define the rights and responsibilities of both the user and the provider, legally protecting them in case of a dispute. If a vendor refuses to enter into any sort of contract, the user is not protected and should look elsewhere for a service provider.

With the increase of cloud computing as a viable option for both consumers and businesses, more and more personal information will be stored in the cloud. Users must understand the risks involved with making use of such services to make educated decisions regarding their privacy.

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