When freelancers' clients move to the cloud
Is your client thinking of moving to the cloud for part, if not all, of their business needs? If not, maybe it’s the creative consultancy or agency you supply which is about to dip its toe into cloud marketing or advertising? Or perhaps, you or your client want to access, view and share creative content or files pertaining to creative projects in the cloud?
Almost regardless, the cloud service will no doubt play a key part in the operation and success of your client’s or agent’s business or project. If, as a creative freelancer, you’re expected to assist, arm yourself with the following checklist, compiled by Sue Mann of Cousins Business Law, to ensure that you optimise your chances of smoothly navigating the less creative and more technical, often legal side of migrating to the cloud.
Before you commit to a service, make sure that it will meet the requirements of your client’s business. Despite their growing maturity, most cloud services are standard offerings so there normally won’t be much room to adjust it afterwards. Also check that the client’s internal or main computer system meets the specification for the cloud service.
Cost is one of the leading factors in the decision about moving to the cloud. Cloud services tend to be charged either on a standard monthly, quarterly or annual fee for a specified amount of use or a variable charge based on the amount of usage. In either case, check what add-ons your client may need, the additional costs involved e.g. for maintenance and support, and agree them at the outset.
A favourable initial price will not seem so attractive if subsequent increases are significant. With a short term fixed price contract, can you renew without a significant price increase? In a longer term contract, is there a cap on price increases during the term? Although you could move to a new provider, that is not always a practical option.
Various aspects of security need to be considered - and not just online. Physical security of premises and vetting of staff used by the cloud provider should be addressed, as should technical security, especially around any transactions third parties via your client will make. You might also need to understand the data storage and processing needs of your client’s business.
Your client’s business will retain obligations under the data protection legislation for ensuring that data your client transfers using the cloud service are secure and are not transferred in breach of that legislation. Your customer will largely be dependent upon the cloud service provider in this respect, so your preliminary checks and contractual safeguards backed up by ongoing checks will be important.
6/Disaster recovery and business continuity
Does the cloud provider have data storage and recovery procedures in place which will be sufficient to protect your client’s data and ensure adequate and prompt restoration in the event of loss or corruption of the data – whether as a result of some major disruption of the client’s business or that of the cloud provider?
Does the contract include a comprehensive description of the service and service levels? Are these backed up by any form of assurance as to performance standards?
Your customer’s business will be using software applications as part of the online service so will need an appropriate user licence either from the cloud provider or third party owner.
Check that your client will be given advance notification of any proposed removal by the cloud provider of the client’s data from its server and whether your client will be indemnified for any loss to the business for any such action which is unreasonable. A cloud provider will usually exclude liability for content stored on its servers.
10/Termination and exit
Find out what will happen to your customer’s data when the contract ends. Without adequate provisions in the cloud computing contract you might find your client’s business locked into an unsatisfactory arrangement and in considerable difficulty if the cloud provider becomes insolvent.
Cloud computing, marketing and advertising are developing areas with much to offer to creative business users. My advice is to be aware of the relevant issues, carry out proper preliminary checks, weigh up the potential benefits, risks and legal obligations and make sure that whatever is finally agreed in relation to the cloud service provision is recorded in a written contract.
13th March 2013