Law Society of Scotland issues cloud computing guidance
Published by Anne Marie Hughes on Sat 09 Jun 12 @ 22:14
The Law Society of Scotland has issued new guidance on cloud computing services following extensive consultation with law firms, in-house counsel and cloud providers.
The advance of such technology has made third party outsourcing of cloud services highly attractive to many businesses, including law firms, bringing benefits such as cost reduction, increased flexibility and in built support and maintenance without the need for an in - house IT team.
There are potential drawbacks to using such technology, which allows the user to store and process data and software via a third party provider and access it over the internet rather than on a firms internal computers or servers, and the guidance published today, 16 January, is intended to provide advice on the benefits and potential pitfalls of using cloud technology.
Paul Motion, convener of the Society's Technology Committee, said: "This is a proactive step by the Law Society of Scotland and we believe it is the first legal regulatory body to issue guidance on cloud services. We hope the profession will appreciate the Law Society of Scotland's leadership and that the guidance will be useful to firms of all sizes. It's essential that any solicitors considering using cloud computing do their homework to make sure that it meets their needs, both in terms of being able to provide the level of service they require and meeting all their security requirements.
"Many solicitors probably already use some form of cloud computing, for example Hotmail or Gmail and social networking sites, but it is important they analyse how they intend to use the system before choosing a supplier. Anyone considering using cloud technology systems should think about the importance of access to and security of client information to determine how stringent the pre-contract diligence and service legal agreement should be - think of your service level agreement as your insurance policy and be sure it meets your specific needs and ensure that security levels, equipment and connectivity are sufficient.
"Planning ahead is also key. A good cloud supplier will ask about your plans for expansion to ensure that they can provide what you need in the future. You should also establish which services would be included in your subscription costs and those that are additional - and make sure that you know about what back up will be provided if there is any system failure."
Regulatory issues arise with third party data storage because, with many cloud providers, your data could be stored anywhere in the world at any time. The Data Protection Act 1998 prohibits the transfer of personal data to countries outwith the European Economic Area (EEA ) that do not offer adequate data protection so the Society recommends that your cloud computing providers stores your data within the EEA. This will ensure that data centres in 'high risk' countries are not subject to any local rules enforcing disclosure to any national authorities without you r knowledge. Likewise, there are obligations on solicitors to disclose information to organisations like the Society itself, the SLCC and others such as HMRC, lenders or law enforcers. Any system adopted by solicitors should be accessible on demand to ensure that you are compliant with such demands.
Mr Motion added: "There is huge potential for solicitors to use cloud computing systems to enhance their business but they must be aware of the issues involved to make sure they don't run into any difficulties."