This is the last of a three part series about Cloud computing as it relates to civil society organisations (CSOs) by Keisha Taylor, Communications Manager, GuideStar International. You can also read the first post TechSoup Global: Teaching CSOs About the Cloud and the second post What is the Value of the Cloud for CSOs in the Developing World?.
Information held by and about a CSO in the Cloud can be requested by governments for a variety of reasons and this can be done without the CSO’s knowledge. As one TechCrunch blogger Paul Carr noted on his post Why I’m Having Second Thoughts About The Wisdom Of The Cloud, a request for information letter can be sent by the government to a provider without any requirement to notify the organisation or person that their data is being accessed. Such stories only serve to heighten CSOs concern about privacy and make them more wary of the use of the Cloud, particularly if they take a position that is publicly in opposition to a government that has jurisdiction over the information they hold in a Cloud.
It isn’t only governments and businesses that are concerned about security, for CSOs also want information about their development related activities and those they serve to be safe in the cloud. A common argument among cloud service providers is that putting data into the Cloud is far safer than keeping it on your computer, disc or server. However, there is still not enough overarching standardisation and regulation to help ensure the security needed is in place within this emerging market. In a data driven and data dependent world if the information that an organisation depends on for its work is lost and irretrievable they have little recourse. Such fears have lead to services like Backupify being introduced to back up information from social networking sites and Google apps.
A Computer World article by Bernard Golden lists a number of predictions for Cloud Computing in 2011, speculating that its use will continue and expand to more countries and as 3G mobile phone services become increasing available in the developing world this will most likely be true. The Cloud presents unprecedented opportunities for civil society organizations to be more efficient in their work. However I would also argue that while CSO will undoubtedly increasingly using cloud computing services, if answers to questions like: What happens if I lose my data in the cloud? What are the local and international regulations governing the Cloud? and How can I transfer all of my information from one Cloud to the next are hard to come by, some CSOs may yet cling to the wise old adage that says you should ‘never place all your eggs in one basket’.