Washington, D.C. of counsel Jason R. Baron was quoted in an article titled, “Agencies Going 'Cloud First' Face a Records Riddle,” in Information Week.

Feeling the weight of the Obama administration's directive to deploy cloud computing where possible, federal agencies have begun migrating their email systems to commercial cloud providers, however agencies haven't always given adequate thought to electronic recordkeeping requirements. That may lead to legal problems down the road, say former and current officials at the National Archives and Records Administration, who maintain agencies need to integrate e-recordkeeping requirements into a cloud migration from the start.

"It doesn't surprise me that the issue of recordkeeping doesn't come up much in discussions about going to the cloud. When people think about the cloud, the first issues that come to mind are security and privacy. Of course, those are extremely important, but from an information governance perspective, one needs a more holistic picture," said Jason.

The administration's "cloud-first" policy intensifies the challenges for agencies because managers are also facing a series of deadlines to manage electronic email records more thoroughly. An August 2012 memorandum issued by former Office of Management and Budget director Jeffrey Zients, along with US Archivist David Ferriero, requires agencies to manage both permanent and temporary email records in an electronic format by the end of 2016. And by December 31, 2019, agencies must manage all permanent records in an e-format for eventual transfer to NARA, which collects and preserves US government records.

Jason continued, “Agencies that aren't spending enough time on electronic records requirements at the beginning of the process of migrating to the cloud for email may have difficulty meeting these deadlines.”

"Otherwise you're building what amounts to a slow-motion train wreck, where you've got this cloud and you've got a million emails somewhere in there and that's all very good. But at the end of the day, when the agency wants [to forward email records] to NARA, it may not have deleted any email or differentiated between what's permanent and what's temporary. You need to think about these issues on the front end," said Jason.

Between 2009 and 2011 NARA officials conducted market research on how to accomplish the transition, developed a business case, and established requirements, said Susan Sullivan, corporate records manager in the office of NARA's chief operating officer. The agency awarded a contract in September 2012 to Unisys to lead the project.

"What NARA did, which is different from what anyone else has done as successfully, was to bake in records management as part of the cloud procurement," Jason concluded.

To read an article about the discussion in Information Week, click here.

Source: Information Week