Warning over cloud computing usage


THE DEPARTMENT of Finance has warned Government departments and public sector bodies that they should not purchase cloud computing services without obtaining legal advice.

The warning e-mail, which carries the subject “cloud computing warning”, says that the Chief State Solicitor’s Office has “advised that issues such as data protection, confidentiality and security and liability are not necessarily dealt with in a manner that would be necessary for public sector responsibilities”.

Cloud computing involves buying computing services which are delivered over the web. It is an alternative to buying, installing and managing complex software systems in-house.

The e-mail to organisations who use the E-tenders public procurement site seems at odds with the Government’s smart economy strategy.

Last year, Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan identified cloud computing as one of six key technology actions to support the smart economy.

Both IBM and Hewlett Packard have established cloud computing competency centres in Ireland which created 190 jobs and involve a combined investment of €36 million. Microsoft, which is identified in the e-mail as a cloud computing supplier, invested $500 million (€366 million) in building a data centre in Dublin which opened last year and will provide these services.

A Microsoft spokeswoman said that Ireland should “embrace the cloud across all aspects of public services”.

“Microsoft’s software plus services offering provides enhanced security for data over and above what has traditionally been available for private and public organisations, and this is one of the primary reasons why so many public and private organisations across the globe are beginning to deploy solutions in the cloud.”

Ed Byrne, general manager of Hosting 365, which provides cloud computing services, described the e-mail as “damaging” and showed a “lack of knowledge” of what the technology involves.

The technology is “mature and not nascent” said Philip Nolan, a partner in legal firm Mason Hayes + Curran. He said any contractual issues were surmountable, and he has large clients who use cloud computing for their core systems.

When contacted yesterday, E-tenders said it was acting on advice from the Chief State Solicitor’s Office and said queries should be directed there. Calls to that office were not returned yesterday.