It seems like cloud storage is everywhere these days. Between online photo storage, external email servers and services like Google Drive, almost everyone is using some form of remote database to store and access their digital files.

Cloud computing is gaining ground in law enforcement, as well. In a survey by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), 54 percent of departments said they are already using the cloud or planning to use it within the next two years. Companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google, have created private cloud networks for agencies such as the CIA, the California Department of Justice and many others.

With the growing number of files required for police work, cloud storage makes a lot of sense. Here are some things to look for in a law enforcement cloud-storage provider:

Endless Storage Space

While thousands of hours of footage from body-worn cameras would quickly overload in-house servers, cloud storage can grow with a department’s needs without blowing the budget. Cloud services such as allow officers to directly upload files from body-worn cameras or other devices, tag them with keywords and store them in a central location.

However, command staff should keep in mind that the easiest or cheapest option is not always the best. Law enforcement agencies must ensure that cloud solutions are compliant with the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Security Policy, which, among many other restrictions, requires that law enforcement agencies retain ownership of all the information stored in a cloud computing solution. An agency’s contract with a cloud storage service should bar the service from data mining, analyzing or releasing any information without permission from agency officials.

Secure Disaster Recovery

Computers crash. Servers go down. Files get corrupted or compromised. Law enforcement agencies should look for a cloud storage service that keeps multiple backups in case of disaster; automatically encrypts sensitive information; gives administrators complete control over who can access, update and delete files; and allows for easy auditing to see the history of each file.

Offsite Access to Necessary Information

With a secure login, agency employees can access cloud storage through the internet, which means officers can get the information they need on the ground instead of having to return to a station. Having up-to-date information can help officers make good decisions in emergency situations and coordinate with other law enforcement agencies.

However, officers must be able to find and understand the information they need. A good cloud storage solution will let officers search files using keywords, and will also include or integrate with data analytics software to help the agency track big-picture trends to make the department more effective.

With a few guidelines in place, cloud computing can be a tremendous benefit to law enforcement agencies, helping make information storage scalable, secure and helpful.