Cloud can't substitute for records management

How's this for a cautionary tale?

A lawyer who represented a medical facility found out during cross-examination that his client had moved its important information into a cloud environment. So far, it sounds like a typical cloud migration.

But it was only later that the client learned the cloud provider was deleting all data every 60 days. Lacking the evidence that would have been in those records, the client had no choice but to settle the case.

John Facciola, a magistrate judge in the U.S. District Court, told that story while speaking at the FOSE Conference and Expo in Washington, D.C., on April 5.

“What terrifies me about the cloud is that people get into their heads that cloud has infinite capacity and we don’t need records management,” he said. “These days, that’s like not having a men’s room! How can you function?”

Facciola urged agency heads to think ahead before leaping to the cloud and offered tips on some key considerations. "Ask yourself some questions: Who in my agency is responsible for this? Who’s going to sign off? What is it going to say, for example, when we have a demand for information and the stuff is in the cloud? What happens if the cloud provider goes bankrupt? That’s always one of my favorite questions.”

Agencies should also carefully think through their security posture and ask what provisions exist to protect data, and who is responsible in the event of a breach, or “who indemnifies whom,” Facciola said.

FOSE, held April 3 to 5, is organized by 1105 Media, the parent company of Federal Computer Week.


About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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Reader comments

Wed, Apr 25, 2012 Henny

The title is mis-representative of the story. The story is some rinky-dink medical company bought public cloud storage on the cheap, failed to see what they were buying, and failed to monitor their own stuff once moved. The story is NOT, as implied, clouds cannot be used to hold official government records (ref DoD 5015.2). If you'd look, I think you'd fine more than a few do use public and private clouds.

Mon, Apr 9, 2012 Arty

Some other questions you should ask: 1. How will you recall something you need? 2. What will you do if the Internet is down? a. Due to a tornado and it will be back tomorrow, or b. Due to a gas pipeline explosion and it will be back next week, or c. Due to a flood which leads to a gas explosion and a power transmission line outage and it will be back in six months. 3. Most cloud providers will stop access to you stuff the day after a missed payment and take quite some time to restart it. 4. Most data centers have a series of protocols (as described in the article) that could be very bad for your operation. Do you know what they are? 5. Have you really compared the real cost of local vs cloud considering everything that could happen? Better look before you leap because he who hesitates is lost. THIMK!

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