17 July 2015
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Q. What does it mean when people say their data is in 'The Cloud'?

A. When something is in 'The Cloud' it means that data is held on computers and servers that are located in data centres and available over the internet. For example, if you use Gmail for your email, then your emails are stored on Google servers in multiple locations around the world and you can access them from anywhere with an internet connection. Other services that operate in 'The Cloud' include Dropbox, Facebook, and various offerings from Apple (iCloud), Microsoft (OneDrive), Google (Google Drive) and Amazon (Cloud Drive).

These public cloud services are fine for your personal data, but not for your patient records. There are data protection rules around having an agreement in place with your Cloud provider and ensuring the data is held within the European Economic Area (28 EU member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway). Healthmail is an example of a private cloud service and is safe to use for patient identifiable clinical emails. The servers are located in the Mater Hospital Dublin. You agree terms and conditions when you apply for an account and the service has been reviewed by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner.

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