Cloud computing is nothing new and has been with us for years. The term cloud computing is simply a general term used to group various online services into a single category. GMail, Yahoo Mail, DropBox, FilesAnywhere, and Salesforce.com are all examples of cloud computing that most of us are familiar with. A hosted Microsoft Exchange or Microsoft Sharepoint environment and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) may be less obvious examples.
Do these environments affect how we collect data for computer forensics or in the e-discovery process? Of course they do, and it always has. Many factors must be considered when collecting any form of data from the cloud including a full understanding of your Service Agreement, the physical characteristics of the implementation, sharing resources with other clients, and more.
Make sure you negotiate your Service Agreement and ensure details are included to handle litigation holds and data preservation among other highly desired items. One item many forget to discuss is how the provider will respond to a subpoena without your knowledge.
The report, available here Cloud Computing Synopsis and Recommendations: Recommendations of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, attempts to define the technology, architectures, current options, and legal/security issues.