Cloud computing is a service that uses the Internet and central remote servers to maintain data and software applications. Cloud computing allows consumers and businesses to use software applications without installation and access to their personal files at any computer with Internet access. Simple examples of cloud computing include Yahoo email or Gmail. It is an option that is becoming more and more popular with small businesses because it is a way to gain access to various software applications that otherwise may be cost prohibitive. Moreover, our increasing desire for mobility makes cloud computing an attractive alternative to physically purchasing the servers and software necessary to run some applications in a single location.
The use of cloud computing is one way to obtain a social networking Web site, which has been discussed before on DuetsBlog. However, in exchange for the cloud computing benefits, the end user must rely on another company, which raises a host (no pun intended) of legal issues. The legal issues will vary in importance based on the software application involved, but here are a few common issues that arise.
The first issue is access. If you are the software developer, you may want to control access to the Web site or other information being stored on the server so that you have leverage in case the end user does not pay for your services. Conversely, as an end user, you will want to make sure you have access to your Web site or other information at all times.
The second issue is confidentiality. As the end user, you want to make sure the software developer has adequate controls in place to protect the confidentiality of any proprietary information provided to the software developer. As the software developer, you want to make sure you are not liable for an inadvertent disclosure of any confidential information.
The third issue is downtime. Especially if you are operating an Internet business, downtime can have a serious affect on your sales. As the end user, you will want to be compensated for downtown and assured that the software developer will diligently work to correct any problems causing the downtime. As the software developer, you want to be careful not to over promise what steps will be taken to fix any problems. These are just a few issues that commonly arise, but provides a sense of what motivates the other party in a cloud computing agreement, which hopefully helps to prevent you from literally having your head in the clouds.