The cloud has proven itself as a scalable platform for Web-based applications. However, scientists and medical researchers are still searching for a simple cloud-based architecture that enables secure collaboration and sharing of distributed datasets. To date, attempts at using the cloud for this purpose generally view the cloud as simply a pool of servers upon which to run their legacy software. This approach fails to leverage the unique platform capabilities of the cloud. In this paper, we describe our Cloud Distributed Research Network (CloudDRN). We leverage the cloud for availability, reliability, scalability, and improved security as compared to legacy distributed systems while still supporting site autonomy. Our philosophy is to adapt commercial software tooling that was originally designed for business use-cases, thereby benefiting from the large built-in user community. We describe our general architecture and show an example of our system created to share distributed clinical research data. We evaluate our system in Amazon Web Services (AWS) and in Microsoft Windows Azure and find that while each cloud achieves similar financial cost, representative queries are 3.5x slower on average in Windows Azure.