To be (a cloud computing user), or not to be: that is the question.

In 2009, the CEO of Animoto Brad Jefferson said:
“Cloud computing is really a no-brainer for any start-up because it allows you to test your business plan very quickly for little money. Every start-up, or even a division within a company that has an idea for something new, should be figuring out how to use cloud computing in its plan.” 

A Visual Overview of Cloud Computing

Yale Begins Move to Google Apps

Yale University is currently working with Google on migrating to Google Apps for Education . This project is expected to be completed by the end of the 2011-2012 academic year for students and the 2012-2013 year for faculty and staff. Yale isn’t the only institution making the switch – more than 200 higher education institutions use Google Apps (including Wilmington University for student email). Google is offering this service for free to Yale. 

Benefits of Google Apps for Education:

  • Email, IM, phone and video calls from a single interface
  • More reliable than an internal email server & virus free
  • Large storage; disaster recovery built in
  • Google Docs and Calendar enable ‘smart scheduling’ when planning meetings
  • Publish school event calendars
  • Students can share course schedules

Besides the new technology services this move will make available to staff and students, Yale was also motivated because using Google Apps will reduce staffing costs and make less of a burden on physical resources. Additionally, with the IT staff freed up from maintaining these services internally, they will be able to focus on other projects. 

The push to cloud computing saves money and gives the Yale community with new services. In theory, this is a win-win; however, there are security and privacy concerns regarding the storage of data on external servers. Yale has already stated that not all of their staff will make the switch due to privacy convers: “Some faculty and staff members with special circumstances — like those dealing with electronic protected health information (ePHI) — will most likely stay on a locally-hosted email system.” 

Students’; academic records are protected under Federal FERPA regulationsto ensure that students’ privacy is respected; FERPA requires student’s personal information to be properly safeguarded and only used for legitimate purposes. On an institution’s local servers, it’s seems like it would be safer since the data is under lock and key. Google addresses these concerns with a detailed Privacy Policy – it states that Google will not inappropriately share or use personal information placed in their systems. 

It seems too good to be true. How does Google benefit from this? The emails are advertisement free. Google states: that Google Apps for educations does not share personal information with advertisers or other 3rd parties without your consent. Due to FERPA, shouldn’t there not even an option for institutions to consent to sharing data? Personally, I love Google and its products, but remember the Google Buzz controversy? Google obviously doesn’t have a perfect track record when it comes to privacy. Even though Google states says that Yale owns the data, Google’s word reliable enough when it comes to academic records? When you entrust your data to 3rd parties, they could potentially go out of business (I know this might be silly to think this in regards to Google, but you never know).

To be (a cloud computing user), or not to be: that is the question.

For more reading on cloud computing, check out these articles:


Do you use a cloud computing service? What do you like or dislike about it? 

What privacy or security concerns do you see with cloud computing or other software as a service (SaaS) technologies? 

Can you trust cloud companies to protect your data – what if they change their terms of service and suddenly no longer have access to your files?


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