November 01, 2017

Clarifying Cloud Computing: The Ethics of Cloud Service Engagement Agreements

Al Harrison and Joseph Jacobson

This article, the latest in a series exploring cloud computing and ethics, addresses engagement agreement modification to take into account a firm’s use of cloud computing. Cloud computing may or may not involve taking client data, files, and work product outside the United States. The implications for your firm and your firm’s clients can be significant. Previous articles in the series may be found in GPSolo magazine’s May/June 2017 issue and in the GPSolo eReport’s July 2017 issue and September 2017 issue.


Where Is Your Clients’ Data and Your Work If You Use Cloud Computing?

Answering that your data is “in the cloud” is wholly inadequate to address key issues for which your firm or you may have liability or for which you may incur liability on behalf of your client. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the largest cloud service provider (CSP) by far, so it seems natural to examine its agreements to see clauses that may be in your own cloud agreements. Even if you do not use Amazon, you may use a managed service provider (MSP) that subcontracts cloud services using Amazon (or another of the many CSPs). This subcontracting relationship may be disclosed or it may appear as though the MSP is directly providing cloud hosting. Even if disclosed, your firm will want to be aware of details and if changes are made in these underlying agreements.


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