SaaS Security: Can You Trust Your Data in the Cloud?


The shift from desktop- and server-based software to what is alternately referred to as “Software-as-a-Service” (SaaS) or “the cloud” is one of the most significant transitions to occur in computing in the last 20 years. Although the benefits offered by SaaS are numerous, there are risks and legal implications of this paradigm shift that should be understood and mitigated by all lawyers considering moving their data into the cloud.

For solos and small firms, the benefits of moving traditional desktop- and server-based applications to the cloud are clear. Cloud-based services typically eliminate large up-front licensing and server costs, offer drastically reduced consulting and installation fees, and eliminate the “upgrade treadmill” typically associated with traditional desktop- and server-based software. Cloud-based services also offer the advantages of “anywhere accessibility,” intuitive ease-of-use, and compatibility with both Windows and Mac operating environments.

Though all software, both desktop and Web-based, is subject to certain risks, issues relating to security, privacy, confidentiality, and data availability gain special relevance with cloud-based services, especially in the context of law practices. Though most bar associations don’t yet provide direct guidance or ethics opinions on the usage of cloud-based services, they do advise their members to select a cloud-based provider with due concern for the maintenance of client confidentiality and data security.

For a typical solo or small firm, conducting this due diligence in a buzz-word and acronym-laden field can be daunting. For this reason, this article will endeavor to provide both an introduction to the relevant technologies, as well as assessment criteria for the evaluation of any cloud-based service. If you adopt the best practices outlined below, your data is likely to be more secure in “the cloud” than it would be stored on your laptop or on a server in your office.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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