NARA clarifies recordkeeping for the cloud

Agency issues FAQ for agency records officers on cloud computing

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) wants agencies to understand their records management responsibilities as they float computing services to the cloud.

NARA posted a document for agency records officers with answers to frequently asked questions related to managing federal records in cloud-computing environments. The FAQ, recently posted on NARA’s Web site, includes definitions, benefits, concerns and records management implications associated with the technology.

Paul Wester, director of modern records programs at NARA, said the FAQ was designed to inform agency records managers about cloud computing technology and to set the stage for an upcoming bulletin on the subject. NARA plans to release the bulletin that will provide more in-depth information related to cloud computing and federal recordkeeping by the end of fiscal 2010.

Cloud computing is a priority for NARA because of the unique nature of the technology and the shift it represents for agencies, Wester said. Agencies that use the technology don’t have direct, physical control over servers where cloud applications, storage, and, possibly, records may reside, he added.


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“As cloud-computing technologies continue to evolve and be deployed in the federal government, NARA wants to ensure that agencies have guidance about the records management implications present in these environments,” Wester said.

NARA said records management implications of cloud computing include:

  • Many applications don’t have record functions, so models may not meet all federal records management requirements
  • Some cloud architectures don't have formal technical standards governing how data is stored and manipulated in cloud environments
  • A lack of portability standards may make it hard to remove records for recordkeeping requirements and
  • Vendors’ terms of services may not sufficiently deal with NARA’s requirements for Electronic Information Systems procurement contracts.

The document said some vendors are beginning to produce records management applications for use with cloud computing services, and those may ease some of those problems. Agencies are responsible for complying with records management regulations regardless of where records are stored, the FAQ added.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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