In recent years, "The Cloud" has become such an ubiquitous buzzword in so many industries, it's become something of a punch line: Sometimes, it seems as if the cloud is everything and yet no one can properly explain it, and every now and then, a middle manager complicates the issue by referring to "the cloud" in a completely clueless way, as if it were a box of something that you dump into your desktop computer like fairy dust.
To the rest of us, the advantages of cloud storage for large and complicated document sets are clear - but the risks are often ignored or not well understood, especially the risks associated with an e-discovery order. Before you hitch your company's future security and financial health to a cloud storage provider, consider the following potential risks.
Risk 1: Slow Production
How will your chosen cloud storage provider handle an order to produce a large volume of documents from your account? Most companies will attempt to comply with discovery orders themselves, of course, but if your storage provider is unprepared and is slow to comply with your requests, you run the risk of an impatient judge going directly to the provider, cutting you out as a middle-man. Many storage providers, ill-equipped for discovery productions, will then simply dump documents without concern for privilege or confidentiality just to get the court out of their hair.
Risk 2: Failure to Produce
When faced with an order for e-discovery, you take your responsibilities very seriously, no doubt. Will your storage provider? If your vendor isn't capable of complying quickly with complex production orders covering a large range of documents, you may experience delays - and the court will likely not accept your blaming of the vendor as an excuse. This can lead to fines and other disciplinary actions.
Risk 3: Complex Chains of Possession
Finally, when you upload your sensitive data to a cloud server, you can potentially lose control over who has copies of what files. This is especially true when a vendor isn't capable of handling a large e-discovery process - and multiple copies of files end up delivered to multiple places as they call in poorly trained "help" to get things rolling.
Your only defense against these risks is a good offense: Any cloud storage vendor you're considering hiring must be vetted for not just the size of their servers and the monthly costs, but for their experience dealing with e-discovery and the precise procedures they have in place. If possible, get written guarantees of these procedures and possibly guarantees of turn-around times, or agreements that your vendor will handle any fines incurred by slow or incomplete compliance due to technical difficulties.
Offloading your document storage to the cloud shouldn't mean you lose control over it - because you certainly won't be excused from responsibility for it in an e-discovery scenario.
James F. Page is a certified electronic discovery specialist. He is also approved as a certified mediator and has been helping individuals throughout Florida settle their disputes using mediation. Call 407-341-0069 to learn how mediation can help you or visit http://www.pagemediation.com for more information.