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In the Loop - February 2010

Some In The Loop articles and links are pertinent to EPA staff and are available to EPA Intranet users only.

TIP: Cloud Computing and Records Management Implications (26-FEB-2010)

Cloud computing is a technology that allows users to access and use shared data and computing services via the Internet or a Virtual Private Network without having to build infrastructure to support the resources within their own network.

The benefits to using a "cloud" include:

  • Cost savings
  • Scalability of resource procurement
  • Accessibility of services
  • Collaboration capabilities with access to shared applications and records
  • Flexibility to procure resources on demand
  • Capacity to outsource large computing needs and non-critical applications

Common concerns include:

  • Security and privacy of information in a shared environment that resides outside of firewalls
  • Ownership and control of data/infrastructure that does not reside within the agency
  • Difficulty moving data in and out of cloud environments into other systems
  • Guarantee of availability and performance of services when 24/7 access is required
  • Data protection especially for sensitive information
  • Compliance with Federal regulations

NARA has published Frequently Asked Questions About Managing Federal Records In Cloud Computing Environments which provides a basic overview of cloud computing, its benefits and concerns, and records management implications.

Problems with cloud computing environments are due to the fact that the architecture lacks formal technical standards governing how data is stored and used. This may make it difficult to maintain accurate records in the long term. A lack of standards for data portability may result in difficulty removing records to meet agency requirements and could complicate the transition of records from one environment to another.

NARA recommends government agencies consider using records management software that can be integrated with cloud computing services to help them keep records that are compliant with its regulations.

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