Cloud computing, a “buzz term” in the information technology industry for the past few years, is slowly migrating to the consumer arena. But cloud computing, also known as cloud services, has been around as long as the Internet itself and is already frequently used by consumers.

In fact, any services accessed outside a user’s own personal computer (PC) can be considered cloud computing,including some UTMB services. Typical cloud services include: Gmail, Facebook, online banking and YouTube. Some of the most prevalent consumer cloud services deal with data storage, automated back-ups and synchronization for computers and hand held devices.

One of the more popular services is iCloud for iPhones,Macs and iPads. There is even an iCloud application for Windows PC’s. These types of services are advantageousin that, in the event of a hard-drive failure, or damage to or loss of your phone, the photos, music and personalinformation you stored can be easily retrieved.

Research indicates that a good portion of the American public is not comfortable with storing personal data in the cloud. According to a survey conducted by Ipsos Research, 53 percent of the respondents agreed that they are concerned about who “owns” their data or files that are stored in the cloud. About 40 percent feel that saving data to the cloud is not as secure or private as saving it to a hard drive.

These are valid concerns. Cloud service providers provide a Terms of Service (TOS) agreement to customers that they rarely read. A recent and quick review of several TOS agreements revealed some common language that could be of concern to consumers:

  •  “We may access, use, preserve and/or disclose your personal account information and content to law enforcement, government officials and/or third parties as reasonably necessary or appropriate.”
  • "We do not represent or guarantee that the service will be free from loss, corruption, attack, viruses,interference, hacking or other security intrusion.”
  • “We reserve the right to change the Terms of Service at any time for any reason without prior notification.” 

Nearly everyone reading this article probably already stores and accesses a large amount of personally confidential information on sites such as Amazon, TurboTax, Gmail, Your Bank and, of course, Facebook. While the sites are convenient, enjoyable and productive, I urge you to use good judgment when actually sharing or storing personally confidential data with any of these services. Stick with reputable, mainstream companies.

Larger organizations tend to have the funding, infrastructure and expertise to adequately protect your data from theft, loss or unauthorized disclosure. They typically have many consumer watchdog groups monitoring them, as well.

As a final precaution to ensure information security, remember that you should never back up, share or store
any UTMB proprietary or confidential data with a consumer cloud company. This includes Gmail, Facebook,
YouTube, GoogleDocs and others.