‘Storing Information in the Cloud’ Unconference

Filed Under (Events, Technology Reviews) by ronan on 12-07-2010

On Friday 21st May 2010 I attended the above ‘unconference’ run by
Aberystwyth University – but held for convenience at the Centre for Excellence in Enquiry-Based Learning (Ceebl) at Manchester University.
The conferecne was one of the outputs of a project that was archive society focused. Cloud computing was seen as a  hot-topic but one that was not very well understood, certainly in the UK.  Unconferencing is something that we were unfamiliar with – the idea being that because of the sense of the unknown associated with the topic there were no fixed presumptions about the structure of our input. But it was almost more difficult to manage an unconference so we ended up with a bit of a hybrid of conference and unconference. During the round table introductions it was apparent that a wide range of interests and different agencies were represented

The first speaker was Dai Davis Solicitor and Chartered Engineer Partner, Brooke North LLP Security and legal issues of the Cloud. This led as all discussions of legal matters invariably do, to lots of what if questions. One aspect that came out of this was the nature of the agreements that are being put in place by the likes of Google and Microsoft with regard to their cloud applications for the educational sectors. Another was the discussion about the G cloud – government cloud.
Dai left his audience with the key point that the Data Protection Act was a critical part of the legal jigsaw. Specifically the principles of: not keeping data for longer than is necessary; taking appropriate measures to ensure it is kept safe; and ‘thou shalt not export data’. The final one of course being of critical importance if you are using Google Apps or Microsoft Edu@Live to store student data in their cloud, which, of course, may be in Cowdenbeath or may be in California.

Steve Bailey Senior Adviser JISC InfoNet spoke about how cloud services in his view are seen as a ‘game changer’. Examples he gave included workflow management systems and document management systems in the cloud used to facilitate globalised markets and collaboration. Graduates want to use their own set of tools and as these users come to the workforce their preferences will need to be taken into consideration. Again he illustrated with the example of an unnamed company in London who on a Monday sent a global e-mail saying that Facebook would be banned and so big was the outcry that by Friday the decision was reversed.

Paul Miller

Paul Miller, (it was good to catch up with him after our metadata days and the MEG (metadata education group) back in the 2001), gave a presentation on the security issues associated with cloud computing. This was centred on; software as a service, platform as a service, infrastructure as a service and storage as a service. Not surprisingly many of the issues were common sense and there were a very many steps that one could take to ensure secure systems. Having said that 100% security was something most delegates, in discussion, accepted was elusive.

My general impression of the conference was positive and I took some highly practical action points away, the most important one being to check the contract we were about to sign with Microsoft Edu@Live for our student email!
Further details of the conference and the project, including a literature review of cloud computing are recorded here.

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