Storing Data in the Cloud - Part III - Data Ownership and Summary

Continuing from Part I about performance and bandwidth in the cloud and Part II about data protection, resiliency and location, this post discusses data ownership and summarizes my approach to choosing a cloud service.
 
Data Ownership
My final item, though not by far the only other thing to think about, is data ownership. Again for the sake of argument, what happens when for whatever reason the cloud service that you are using ceases to exist? 
 
First, some examples of how this could happen.  It could be that the cloud provider decides that the service they are providing is no longer profitable and they decide to shut it down. It could be that the some authority hears about some illicit data on the service you are using, rightly or wrongly, and they swoop in to shut it down either temporarily or permanently.  It could be that the company goes bankrupt and the assets get liquidated to pay creditors.  There are a lot of reasons that things could get shut down and at that point the question is who does that data belong to and how do you get it back?
 
It might seem obvious to you that the data is yours and should always be given back to you but that might not be the case. Most people do not read the EULA (End User Licensing Agreement) or contract that the services insist you agree to before you use their cloud.  In those documents however, are some of the details you need to know to understand this issue.  Some of the questions and answers you might have will not be in there.  At this point, once again, you might need to contact the provider and ask them. 
 
Data on servers or storage arrays is just data.  There will be lots of data on the infrastructure you are using from lots of individuals, companies and organizations. While the service knows whose it is when it comes to the legal owner of that data, it is still on somebody else’s computers in somebody else’s datacenter. It is up to you to understand what their policies and contracts say about what your rights are and how far they will go to enforce them.
 
Conclusion
Cloud services are here and they are here to stay.  You are using them now and, just as there are lot of factors to take into account when you buy a new phone, computer, car or home, there are things to consider when choosing a cloud service. Take your time, do your homework, worry about the data that is most important and relax a bit on the data that might not be as critical.  Getting paranoid about EVERY byte of data is not productive, but being more aware of what is in your data, what it might mean if you couldn’t access or what might happen if someone else accesses it is important.
 
Take a look at the cloud services that are out there  - they can provide benefits to you every day.  Find them, investigate them and where it makes sense - use them. 

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