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The benefits and risks of cloud computing services

We are a small general practice firm. I have heard that a lot of firms are investing in cloud computing services. What is cloud computing and what are the benefits of such a service?

Cloud computing is a computing service where someone else owns and runs the hardware, and often the software, which you access and operate via the internet.

There are many benefits to using cloud computing services:

- improved backup/disaster recovery
- flexibility
- increased storage capacity
- increased data handling capacity
- reduced infrastructure costs
- avoiding frequent updates to software
- reduced internal IT staff costs

However, you should also consider the risks of using such a service:

- security, data confidentiality and location of data
- service reliability and stability
- lack of control over customisation and integration
- service response time, and enforcing service level agreements
- speed and bandwidth
- danger of supplier lock-in
- difficulty of achieving executive buy-in
 

There are different types of cloud computing services and you will need to make sure that they meet your business requirements, they are procured under a robust business case and that they have been subjected to a full risk and compliance analysis.

You will need to ensure that your cloud deployment complies with the Data Protection Act 1998 and your obligations under the Solicitors' Code of Conduct 2011 in terms of confidentiality and outsourcing. If you do not have the expertise in-house, you can obtain independent expert advice.

For further information, please see the Law Society’s practice note on Cloud computing.

Have you got a practice question? Call the Practice Advice Service on 020 7320 5675.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. The Law Society does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information given.

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