Cloud services like Google Apps and DropBox are relatively new phenomena. They haven’t been around long enough for the hidden implications to become part of established IT lore–that body of underlying assumptions and standard solutions we use as a guide to understand problems and find solutions.
Cloud services appear to be better, faster and cheaper than locally installed and managed services. At least on the surface. As Nobel-prize winning economist Milton Friedman once said, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.”
The missing pieces from the equation include the less visible things we tend to take for granted, such as:
- Ownership of intellectual property
Doesn’t ownership stay the same if I store it here rather than there?
- Control of publication
Don’t I get to decide what gets published and when?
- Legal protection within the scope of employment
This is part of my job, so I’m covered. Right?
- Access to university records
Don’t we have super users who can access anything?
We back up that stuff, so why wouldn’t they?
When it comes to cloud services, the answer to all those questions is: not necessarily.
Does this mean we shouldn’t use cloud services? Should fear hold us back from keeping up with technology? No. We just need to be careful about which cloud services we use and how we use them.
The university has contracts with some services, like Google Apps. For others, you should read the terms and conditions carefully, and think about the implications for the use you have in mind. For more information, check out the University’s guidelines and contact IT Policy and Planning with questions.