Is your head in it?

The phrase ‘cloud computing’ has become increasingly more commonplace recently, to the point of being ‘trendy’.

Tech companies now use the exponential benefits of a ‘cloud’ environment and with the basic premise of ‘cloud computing’ reaching amazing levels of lifestyle integration with computers and tablets and phones synchronising reminders, contacts and events automatically and seamlessly; the future is ‘the cloud’!

For some of you, cloud computing may still be somewhat alien.

Here’s a very simple explanation of cloud computing.Traditionally when you buy a computer it comes with a black box. This is where all of your data – letters, spreadsheets, pictures and music – gets stored. The capacity of these boxes has grown exponentially over the years, but so too has the size of files you store and of course, the types of files you store.

Restrictions with ‘local storage’ include: no access to your black box = no access to all those files; if it gets stolen/damaged/destroyed (unless you have a separate back up) you lose all your files; and if you love storing stuff digitally the black box runs out of space.

Enter
With the wonderful invention of the worldwide web – where interconnectivity has become second nature – we can now connect to other peoples black boxes; much bigger black boxes that store more data, respond faster, can be accessed anywhere, are securely backed up and can link up to create synchronicity. Companies sell space on their black boxes and like most things, there is an economy of scale: one black box (a server) in your practice, may cost you £2,000 but, if that black box can support 1,000 practices, well… you see where I’m going with this.

Space has become so readily available that some companies have started giving it away free. So, what’s not to like?

Last September, the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) released new guidelines for the use of cloud computing to underline that companies remain responsible for how personal data is looked after, even if they pass it to cloud network providers.

The issue is, many of you are using cloud computing for serious business tasks, perhaps without realising it and certainly without realising the implications.

As a professional healthcare provider, you have a legal obligation to conform to vehemently uphold legislation surrounding patient confidentiality, data protection and information governance. The ICO frequently publicise fines of £50,000 or more for breaches.

Is anything ever really free?
Here is an excerpt from the terms of one of the world’s leading internet companies: ‘When you upload or otherwise submit content to our services, you give ****** (and those we work with) a worldwide licence to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works, communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.

The rights you grant in this licence are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our services, and to develop new ones.’

Now you’ve read that, would you be so keen to save a patient’s treatment plan, staff records or your finances on this ‘free’ service? I thought not. This isn’t isolated. Many ‘free’ services will include clauses allowing them to edit or remove your files if space on their servers becomes limited.

The message here is clear, you have a duty to your business, your patients and your team to ensure services you use protect data in accordance with legislation.
 

You need to know
• Information Commissioners Office (ICO) guidelines for the use of cloud computing underlines that companies remain responsible for how personal data is looked after, even if passed to cloud network providers
• As a professional healthcare provider, you have a legal obligation to conform to vehemently uphold legislation surrounding patient confidentiality, data protection and information governance
• Many ‘free’ cloud computing services will include clauses allowing them to edit or remove your files if space on their servers becomes limited
• The ICO can fine £50,000 or more for breaches.

Dentabyte Compliance Cloud is a cloud-based service centralising, maintaining and managing all of your compliance evidence in a time- and cost-effective way. It conforms to data protection legislation and never shares or sells data or uses it.

Author
Martin Chapman has been a business manager within dentistry for a nearly five years following a ten year career as a police officer. He is now a member of the Dentabyte Compliance Cloud team, providing practices with a versatile, paper-free, CQC Compliance Management Information System. If you wish to discuss this article or how the Compliance Cloud can provide some of the solutions mentioned above feel free to email him at [email protected] or call him on 01825 713640.

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