Cloud Computing and ECU Data

Related topics:  ECU Outside FTPIdentity theft | Microsoft Sharepoint collaboration | Piratedrive file storage | Video storageProtecting Sensitive Data

Cloud computing at ECU
Cloud computing
is a term used to describe computing services delivered by a third party over the Internet rather than the university’s own computing resources. Examples of cloud computing services include:


  • Amazon Cloud Drive
  • Dropbox
  • Google Gmail/Google Docs/Google Drive
  • Microsoft Live

Some of these services may prove to be promising additions to the university’s current technology mix; however, cloud computing services can create considerable liabilities for the university and must be approved before use.

The university is ultimately accountable for the privacy and security of its data, regardless of whether that data is stored on campus or with a cloud computing service. Only a few individuals within the university are authorized to enter into contracts for cloud computing services. This includes the “click through” agreements we all see when signing up for a third-party email or document storage service, such as Gmail or Dropbox.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  Can I use a “free” online cloud service that does not cost the University any money to share my data?

A:  Although the online service is touted as “free”, all of these “free” services have what are considered to be terms and conditions for use (T&Cs).  These are sometimes referred to as click wraps or click agreements. Many of the T&Cs have contractual language that conflict with University and State of NC policies and laws. Accepting the T&Cs of these online services is a violation of ECU’s regulation on Delegation of Authority to Sign Contracts which is found at and Delegation of Contracting Authoriity which is found at  Check with Materials Management if you have questions on accepting T&Cs for any University services or products.

Q:  Am I allowed to store work files on Gmail, Dropbox or another third-party service in the cloud? I work from home and at many different locations as part of my job.

A:  NO! ECU data must NOT be stored external to ECU with cloud computing service providers without proper authorization. ECU email must be used to conduct official ECU business. Piratedrive can be used to store ECU documents, while ECU Outside is good for sharing non-sensitve documents with non-ECU collaborators. Follow the Sensitive Data Guidelines and obtain data owners’ approval before sharing sensitive information with external collaborators. Contact the IT Help Desk at 252.328.9866 for assistance.

Q: Does this also include research documents (no PII or sensitive data included) and other project files (journal editing and reviewing notes, for example) shared with non-ECU collaborators?

A:  All of us must consider the security of ECU information and the university’s ability to retrieve all ECU data. Therefore, ECU data should remain in the custody of ECU employees. If the researcher has approval to share ECU data with external collaborators, then he/she must still follow security and compliance requirements to protect that information.

Also, if research involves human subjects, researchers must follow the security controls listed in the IRB submission and should only share that data with the individuals listed in the IRB documentation. Please contact the Office of Human Research Integrity (OHRI) at 252.744.2914 for assistance.

Q:  How do I access my Piratedrive storage?

A:  See the Piratedrive website for information on accessing your storage folder on or off campus, requesting a department Piratedrive folder, setting permissions for others to access your folder and more.

Q:  I need to collaborate with someone outside of ECU.

A:  One solution is to request a folder on the ECU Outside FTP server or to request a SharePoint site. Either of these solutions allow non-ECU users to access. Be sure to follow appropriate sensitive data guidelines.

Q:  Where can I store student grades?

A:  Student grades should only be stores on ECU-owned resources. We recommend student grades be stored in Blackboard or on Piratedrive. More information can be found at

Q:  I have a free cloud application that automatically syncs the files on my office computer to the files on my home computer. What does ECU offer that  provides this type of service to eliminate the manual upload of files from Piratedrive to my home computer?

A:  ECU data should NOT be stored on your personal home computer. Any ECU files that you need to access while you are away from campus should be stored on your personal or departmental Piratedrive. Using an ECU provided secure connection (VPN), you can map a drive to your  Piratedrive and access your files from any computer and any location. The connection to your data is secure and you don’t have to worry about having multiple copies and versions.

Q:  I am a member of a non-ECU professional organization that shares documents via Dropbox. The professional organization consists of members from across the country. None of the information from this organization pertains to or belongs to ECU. Is it ok for me to use Dropbox for this purpose?

A:  As long as you are not representing ECU, acting on behalf of ECU, or storing ECU data for this purpose, it is permissible for you to use Dropbox for your personal use.

Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak warns that the cloud will cause issues in the coming years in the wake of the Apple iCloud breach. He states, “With the cloud, you don’t own anything. You already signed it away…the more we transfer everything onto the web, onto the cloud, the less we’re going to have control of it.” Read more about the security breach and Wozniak’s comments.

For more information, visit the cloud computing website, research data security and online storage security.


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    About Belinda Perkinson

    Belinda works with the ITCS Training and Communications team at East Carolina University.
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