Author: Donna Chesteen, Esq.
When I talk to business owners who are reluctant to store their customer information in the cloud, they most often tell me that they do not want to use the cloud because of the duty they owe to their customers to protect that data. Many of us are control freaks and we think that if we physically keep the files on our own laptops, on our own flash-drives, or on our own servers, we can better protect this data. This stands to reason because who will take more care with our customers’ data than we ourselves? This seems reasonable…until a tornado or a hurricane or a flood comes along.
Business owners have a duty to protect the personally identifiable information of their customers. The question then arises as to the best method of providing this protection. There are advantages to a business having direct physical control of a customer’s files. If you have physical control of your customers’ data, you always know who has access to it and where it is. And, traditionally, this is how this duty has been carried out. But what if the city where the business is located unexpectedly gets hit by a storm and the business office and the owner’s home are destroyed? What kind of contingency plan must the business have in place to make sure its customer files are safe and sound? Unfortunately, many businesses do not even know how to safeguard their data from these kinds of occurrences or, if they do know how, they don’t have processes and procedures in place to implement these safeguards.
If the business has stored its customers’ data on the cloud by using a file-hosting service, however, much of this risk can be mitigated. There are two main advantages to using the cloud in the situation of a natural disaster: (1) the business has access to the customer information from any device with internet access, and (2) the cloud provider typically stores the data over multiple data centers that are geographically remote to each other. Therefore, when a storm hits, the business owner does not have to worry about whether the backup copies of his customer data have been damaged or whether these copies have been washed to sea. He doesn’t even have to worry about whether his computer or iPad is still functional. All he has to do is purchase a new computer and he can gain immediate access to his customers’ protected data. In terms of the customer files, there is no evidence that the storm even occurred.
The next question that comes to mind is what happens if the cloud’s data center has been damaged by the storm. That too is typically a non-issue. Most cloud providers have many data centers that are located in different parts of the country. When a business stores its customer data in the cloud, copies are stored at multiple data centers. Even if one of the provider’s data centers is washed away, the customer data still exists on a server somewhere else and most likely the business and its customers will never even know that her data was affected.
Unfortunately, there are things over which we have no control. And sometimes this means we can better serve our customers by relinquishing some of our perceived control and storing our customer data in a safer place known as “The Cloud.”
If you need help navigating the cloud and its implications, contact me for help.