Location and the Lawyer’s Cloud

It’s been months since I’ve last posted because I think things are pretty settled.  New ethics opinions seem to follow the same line, some lawyers still wring their hands that they don’t know what the cloud is.  But the issue of location has taken an interesting turn and I thought I’d just make a note of it.

Initially, the cloud was largely US-centric.  That’s where Microsoft’s Azure and Amazon Web Services, the primary cloud infrastructure services on which many software-as-a-service companies built their own products, existed.  Microsoft and Amazon had data centers in other regions but if you’re SaaS provider was North American, there was a good chance your data lived in the US.

That caused some heebie jeebies for Canadian lawyers, some of whom were panicky because of the USA PATRIOT Act.  For the most part, location was a red herring.  The guvmint’s going to get you regardless of which side of the border you’re on.

It has been interesting, post-Edward Snowden‘s initial revelations, to see that something is enabling greater location control.  It could be fear.  It could be cloud maturity.  Whatever, there seems to be more choice for lawyers who want to approach their cloud differently.

The case the US government has brought against Microsoft may be part of this.  The US wants emails belonging to an alleged criminal, located on Microsoft’s Hotmail (Outlook) servers.  These servers are in Ireland and Microsoft has refused.

A law firm considering Microsoft Office 365, their cloud productivity suite, can choose the location of their data centers.  It may be advantageous, based on firm need or client preference, to opt for a location like Ireland or somewhere else in the EU.

Twitter and Dropbox are two other services that have recently announced that they are moving non-US users to Irish data centers.  Twitter has moved everyone outside the US, while Dropbox has moved everyone outside North America.

Other companies familiar to law firms, like Open Text, have announced expansion in other parts of the world.  Open Text opened a data center in 2014 in Australia.  Clio opened a data center in Ireland to meet the needs of its UK and Irish practice management customers.

Location is probably still not a decisive factor for most North American legal professionals in whether or not to use the cloud.  However, the choices emerging on where to put your client confidential and private information mean that there are more options to consider when making the plunge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *