News / October, 2016

Under a cloud

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By: Sam Trendall, Channelnomics

Trust is an elusive and fragile thing that can take decades to gain, but can be lost in a moment. Regaining it can be the hardest thing of all.

In the last three years the relationship between US IT providers and their customers - and potential customers - on this side of the Atlantic has been characterised by mistrust. It was this climate of suspicion and enmity that, in October 2015, brought down the EU-US Safe Harbour arrangement, leaving customers and hosting providers in legislative limbo.

But this year has brought several developments that could prove conciliatory to transatlantic IT relationships. In February the European Commission announced that a replacement for Safe Harbour - the Privacy Shield agreement - had been created. The framework was formally ratified and adopted in July.

Around the same time there was more news that could boost European end users' confidence in the safety of working with US hosting providers, when Microsoft won a US Court of Appeal caseagainst the US Department of Justice. The verdict, which reverses an earlier lower-court ruling compelling Microsoft to hand over customer emails stored in a datacentre in Dublin, could prove a landmark decision for the public cloud space.

The sector's biggest names have also been doing their bit to rebuild any trust that may have been by lost by committing to a raft of new datacentre facilities in Europe. Within the space of two weeks there were major investments from each of the market's three biggest players: Amazon Web Services - which is already working on a new London facility - revealed plans to set up shop in Paris; Google announced the creation of its Google Cloud division and the establishment of eight new datacentres, including bases in London, Frankfurt, and Finland; and Microsoft detailed plans to offer cloud services from French datacentres, beginning next year.

Martin Warren, EMEA cloud solutions manager at storage vendor NetApp, claimed that the big three's investments are "a good first step" in allaying any lingering fears European customers might have about allowing US firms to handle their data. But it may be necessary to get even closer to clients, he stressed.

"It's understandable that European customers will be more supportive of cloud computing when they can see that their data is stored in their country," said Warren. "Since most people now understand the importance of data, we feel more comfortable knowing it is within our borders."

But Jon Huberman, CEO at enterprise file sync and share firm Syncplicity, claimed that Europeans are still right to be cautious.

"This is a first step, but as long as data or metadata is transported through the US, their fears are just as valid," he said

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