The following headline caught my attention this past weekend as I was reading the April issue of the ABA Journal:  "The Trouble with Terabytes: As Bulging Client Data Heads for the Cloud, Law Firms Ready for the Storm."   It piqued my interest not only because I am a lawyer who follows technology, but also because I represent construction contractors who are grappling with paperless project questions: Should we head to the cloud to back-up our document management system? Should we go entirely paperless on our projects? What are the risks?

Although the Terabyte article is focused on the struggles for law firms that are considering cloud solutions, there a number of practical tips for the construction industry.  Whether you are a general contractor, a specialty supplier or an owner/developer, consider the following as you take your construction data to the cloud:

  1. Backing up your data should not be viewed as a best practice, it should be a requirement.  According to Matthew Knouff, general counsel of Complete Discovery Source, who was quoted in the Terabyte article, this is absolutely imperative.  As a player in the construction industry–whether you choose to go paperless–you should have a plan for backing up your current electronic data.  You should also consider how long to archive your project documents after completion.
  2. The risks associated with loss of privacy, breach of security or public disclosure exist no matter where computing is conducted. If you think taking your data to the cloud presents new security risks, consider the risks that already exist if you networks and servers are attached to the internet.  When you move to the cloud as a back-up precaution, you are transferring that risk of loss to the service provide.
  3. The benefits of collaboration can more easily be reaped through cloud computing. What’s that suppose to mean? If you are involved in pre-construction design, project performance, or litigation, there is great benefit from controlled access project documents.  Web-based repositories can allow your project people, your consultants and your attorneys to review, issue code, and share documents as you prepare for litigation.  The same technologies allow the owner, designer, contractor and suppliers to communicate and share documents before disputes arise.

There are some risks, including the possibility that the cloud provider may experience technical issues, as well as financial strains.  Research and due diligence, thus, becomes important as you select a cloud computing solution.

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