As the Internet becomes more and more important in our lives, it could be only a matter of time before all of our important data is stored in the huge IT “cloud”. Most of us have already computerized a lot of their data. One only has to think about banking services, bill payments, tax returns, e-mails, document storage and the processing of social security information online. Soon we will make payments using our smartphones. Businesses and individuals are moving away from metal filing cabinets and adopting computer servers, which are more convenient and enable better data management. Is it safe? In principle, the cloud could be much safer than storing physical documents. That said, some elements of online data storage need to be considered.
When discussing problems that may occur when storing one’s files on a computer, the importance of keeping one’s data is often emphasized. The concept of record keeping in the “cloud”, which consists of recording one’s data on the Internet, is less often addressed because this practice is relatively new. However, it is starting to receive a lot of attention and the debate surrounding the viability of record keeping in the cloud is far from over.
Assess the risks
An increasing number of people and businesses are trying to move towards a paperless life, at least to the extent that non-essential or non-legal documents no longer occupy meters of storage space, while easy to find data and information when needed. For most people, hard drives and servers have replaced file drawers and, at a time when more and more transactions and exchanges are taking place on the Internet, the cloud is becoming an extension of it.
To a certain extent, you are already storing confidential data in the cloud. Your email correspondence is saved in the cloud. When you do business online with your bank or businesses, your account information and invoices are also stored in the cloud. This is also the case with the data you share with your business partners through collaborative tools on the Internet, as well as all the information that goes through your website.
Information technologies are changing rapidly. The encryption of data in the cloud makes their flight almost impossible. That said, the fact is that you no longer control your data once they are online. You may sign a confidentiality agreement with a provider, but in general, the provider will not be responsible for your data if it is lost or if the server fails. Information technology has made significant progress, but there are still some reliability issues.
Most IT experts agree that the risk of your documents being stored in the cloud being lost or becoming inaccessible without you making a mistake is great. Server failures, hacker attacks and other incidents that can compromise your own Internet network can also affect the cloud at any time, which could make your data inaccessible.
If you plan to use an Internet service to maintain your accounts, store data, or make transactions, keep all your confidential documents in a secure location. Legal documents such as wills, divorce decrees, trust agreements or other contracts should not be registered in the cloud. There should be a printed version of all documents that must be kept for a certain period of time and kept either on-site or in another safe place.
When it comes to online data, you should be able to rest easy. It is still strongly recommended to keep physical records of your most important legal and financial documents. Ideally, your important financial data should be backed up on two or three different storage devices, such as a CD, USB stick or hard drive, and one of them should be kept in a separate safe place. On-line record keeping is well established, but ultimately you are responsible for your own safety.