By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s called the “cloud” and by the end of this year, it’s estimated that we’ll spend more than $13 billion to store our documents and photos there.  But 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan finds there are some things you need to know before you jump into digital document storage.

Like many small business owners Jaclyn Imani has plenty of paper and not many places to put it.  She says, “There’s about eight drawers of files, customer files, and three drawers of accounting files.”  So, when she took over her husband’s car repair shop after his death, she decided to move all of the records to the cloud.

“The cloud is actually a set of services that are willing to store your documents on their servers and make them available to you,” says Corynne McSherry of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  According to McSherry, while the cloud is convenient, enabling users to access their documents anytime and “anyplace, users first have to get the documents onto those servers, and therein lies one of the risks.

Imani hired a company to do it for her.  But when her $3,600 bill ballooned into more than $12,000 she contested the charges.  She claims the company then held her documents hostage.  She says, “All my files were gone, I was like ‘what’s happening?”

“Your stuff might not be so safe,” says McSherry.  Who points out that there’s a risk in giving another company access to your sensitive documents; documents that could be hacked, subpoenaed or lost if the service shuts-down.  In fact most user agreements, like Imani’s, reserve the right to suspend or terminate your service at their discretion.  McSherry says, “Convenience comes at a price.”

All the more reason to choose your cloud companies wisely and keep back-up copies of everything.  Imani says, “It was supposed to simplify my life, but it hasn’t simplified my life.”

The company Imani hired to upload her documents eventually gave her access to them again, but it is now suing her.  So before hiring any service like this always get a quote in writing, up-front and again, keep a back-up copy of everything.


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