The WikiLeaks story has prompted the business community to ask itself: "If the U.S. government's information isn't safe, how safe could my organization's data be?"

Financial institutions may have even greater concerns than other organizations. As a recent posting on the BankThink blog — "WikiLeaks, Amazon & You: Will Banks Hesitate in the Cloud?" — pointed out, banking information chiefs, though yet to become fully comfortable with cloud services, are feeling even more skittish about data storage solutions in the age of WikiLeaks. This is an unfortunate development in that it risks slowing much-needed technological innovation in the industry. On one hand, I appreciate the hesitation on the part of information chiefs whose job it is to secure their organizations' data. On the other, I believe moving to the cloud is more a question of when, not if. Once financial institutions realize that security and efficiency benefits of using cloud-based services are too big to ignore, picking the right provider is the next step.

The article indicates that institutions that adopt cloud-based solutions in the near term will do so by building their own private infrastructures. Though I understand the motivation, financial institutions do not need to build expensive systems on their own; proprietary systems often fall flat when it comes to realizing the cost efficiencies and scalability that cloud computing is, by nature, intended to deliver. Instead, using a third-party, privately hosted cloud provider can let banks benefit from scalability without giving up the crucial security component a proprietary system offers.

Service-level agreements do indeed become crucial in a relationship with a third-party provider of cloud services. Information chiefs should look for clearly defined terms in such areas as security, privacy and data accessibility, as well as a clearly defined termination clause to help protect the institution should any data be lost while being transferred to another platform.

Innovations in cloud-based services are helping create efficiencies for businesses and consumers alike; financial institutions should not overlook these benefits. And though safely storing data should always be a top priority, information chiefs should not view efficiency and security as mutually exclusive.

Rich Walsh
President, document archive and repository services