Cumming, K. (2011), "The Archives and Records Association (ARA) UK and Ireland 2010 Cloud Computing Report and Toolkit Reports", Records Management Journal, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 165-167. https://doi.org/10.1108/09565691111152116
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Cloud computing is defined as “the ability to access a pool of computing resources which are owned and maintained by a third party via the internet” (p. 6, Project Report) (Convery, 2010a). The most common form of cloud computing uses online infrastructure to access services such as e‐mail, shared project management spaces and document storage environments but applications, hardware and even complete operating systems are also now being deployed through the cloud. This does wonders for information accessibility and IT cost management, but the practicalities of record control, storage, security, management and preservation in this distributed space are yet to be fully resolved.
Based on survey results presented in this excellent project report and toolkit, cloud computing is poised on the brink of ubiquity. In total, 30 per cent of organisations surveyed by Aberystwyth University currently use varying forms of cloud computing. Significantly, 17 per cent are actively planning to implement cloud computing and another 41 per cent are interested in utilising cloud‐based frameworks in the future.
Aware of the risks that this rapid growth in outsourcing presents, the Archives and Records Association UK commissioned Nicole Convery of the Department of Information Studies, Aberystwyth University to investigate the management, operational and technical issues surrounding the storage of information in the cloud, with the intent of developing a toolkit to assist information professionals. These two excellent documents are the result.
The first document in this set is the project report (Convery, 2010a). For those seeking to better understand the concept of cloud computing, the report gives an outline of what cloud computing means, the services that are offered in the cloud and a useful introduction to the specific opportunities and risks that cloud storage presents. The report also provides a very useful overview of the drivers that are pushing the tremendous growth rates in cloud computing and the specific challenges that this particular form of data storage and operation generates.
At its conclusion the project report provides a very useful comparison of the services offered by a range of cloud computing providers, including information about pricing models, security measures, audit arrangements, the location of information storage under different cloud arrangements, information destruction possibilities and an indication of whether the service contracts offered by different providers are negotiable.
The second document, the toolkit (Convery, 2010b), provides more step‐by‐step guidance for those looking to employ cloud services. It provides very detailed direction to help implementers assess the risks and opportunities associated with cloud‐based outsourcing. The toolkit is divided into six well designed, and comprehensive major sections. The first of these provides a good overview of cloud computing, defining essential characteristics, as well as different service and deployment models. After further discussion of the benefits and challenges of cloud arrangements, the first section concludes with “Top 10 questions when outsourcing to the cloud”, a simple summary of the big picture issues that organisations must be sure to assess before moving data to the cloud.
The next three sections are the real meat of the toolkit for records and information professionals. They outline sets of preparatory questions and issues based around the broad categories “preparing for the cloud”, “managing the cloud” and “operating in the cloud”. The detail provided is excellent – in depth, comprehensive and relevant, giving real insight and specific suggestions for mitigating risks and implementing effective cloud arrangements.
The next section presents three case studies, each providing a very positive perspective on the process and organisational efficiencies that can be achieved using cloud computing frameworks. The final section contains a consolidated listing of the more than 200 assessment questions posed throughout the toolkit. In combination like this, these questions provide a very comprehensive basis to help organisations assess their readiness and risk tolerances for cloud computing.
In all, I think these are excellent documents which provide much needed guidance in this high‐risk area. My one concern is not with the documents themselves, but with the use that is being made of them. From a cross‐organisation, risk management perspective, these documents have so much to say about the management frameworks that should be applied to information resources in outsourcing arrangements. As the toolkit makes clear, preparing for and implementing cloud computing is a risk assessment and risk management exercise that is the responsibility of a range of information professionals across an organisation.
By direction and design however, these documents could currently be seen as records management guidelines for records managers. We cannot allow all the knowledge, understanding and research contained in these documents to be locked within our own community. Virtually all the content in the toolkit could easily be repurposed into checklists, summary documents and more “Top 10” type summations that could build significant bridges of understanding between our profession and others. It should be the responsibility of the commissioning body to repackage the fantastic advice in these documents in simple and concise ways that will have meaning for other business professionals.
The risks associated with cloud computing discussed in these documents are real, but so too are the benefits that can come from cloud arrangements. As records managers, we have much to contribute to the development of secure cloud arrangements but we need to start sharing this knowledge now, before that point of cloud computing ubiquity is reached and it is all too late. These excellent documents will become a key tool in our arsenal but repurposing and repackaging their content so that they can become easily accessible sources of information for other professionals to acknowledge and manage the risks of information storage in the cloud is a critical next step.
Convery, N. (2010a), Storing Information in the Cloud – Project Report, The Archives and Records Association UK and Ireland and Department of Information Studies, Aberystwyth University, UK, 29 September, available at: www.archives.org.uk/images/documents/Cloud_computing_report_final‐1.pdf (accessed 20 June 2011).
Convery, N. (2010b), Cloud Computing Toolkit – Guidance for Outsourcing Information Storage to the Cloud, The Archives and Records Association UK and Ireland and Department of Information Studies, Aberystwyth University, UK, 26 August, available at: www.archives.org.uk/images/documents/Cloud_Computing_Toolkit‐2.pdf (accessed 20 June 2011).