CIOs today are faced with a technology landscape where the ground beneath them is constantly shifting. The IT needs of the organisation need to be met, but there are also increasingly complex demands when it comes to compliance and security. For many CIOs, cloud computing has opened up a world of new possibilities and presents a huge business opportunity. At the same time, important questions still remain about data security and privacy protection, as well as service level agreements (SLAs) and transparency.
In an effort to assist CIOs in choosing the right cloud providers, the European Commission (EC) has recently published the Cloud Service Level Agreement Standardisation Guidelines. These cover important areas such as performance, data security, data management, and personal data protection. The guidelines are designed to promote cloud adoption across the EU and encourage businesses to take advantage of the massive value that cloud is expected to generate over the coming years.
In 2012, the European Commission estimated that the adoption of cloud computing in Europe could have an overall cumulative impact on GDP equal to €957 billion and provide 3.8 million jobs by 2020. Unsurprisingly, there's a lot of enthusiasm for cloud, but challenges for European companies and CIOs persist. Data breaches regularly feature in the news, and many feel concerns over government surveillance have yet to be adequately addressed since the Snowden revelations.
A new research report from Forrester argues that the EC's guidelines will not only simplify much of the cloud landscape for CIOs, but will also lead to smarter businesses, improved culture, and additional business value. By placing privacy and security at the centre of IT strategy, organisations will gain in the long term through enhanced brand loyalty and customer satisfaction. Though the guidelines will not be binding, EU regulations around cloud computing will no doubt become more stringent over time, and adopting at an early stage is likely to pay dividends.
According to the Forrester research, the number one priority when selecting a cloud provider is a secure and dedicated cloud environment. This is followed closely by the desire for comprehensive service-level agreements that fit with organisational needs. Although there is certainly growing enthusiasm for the as-a-service approach, CIOs are often frustrated at the lack of transparency in cloud contracts. In general, providers unilaterally set terms and conditions, while users simply "click through" them with little or no room for negotiation.
The new guidelines from the EU seek to change that, creating a cloud marketplace that works for both vendor and user. In the cloud marketplace, it's often difficult to establish what's missing, or what one vendor does better than another. The guidelines will help CIOs compare different offerings from various providers, enabling them to evaluate the capabilities of vendors with regard to data protection, security and compliance issues.
The Forrester research states that compliance mechanisms are likely to become more closely embedded in cloud initiatives, rather than bolted on as an afterthought. The penalties involved for companies that fall short on compliance are dramatic, with heavy fines compounding reputational damage. Anything that can insulate organisations from exposure to data breaches will be welcomed, and vendors will compete fiercely over this territory.
For those that can offer customers a secure, dedicated cloud environment that complies with EU data legislation, aligns with the new guidelines, and provides transparency for clients, the opportunity is big. Security and privacy protection are no longer just the preserve of multinational conglomerates - they are concerns for every single organisation that uses IT. The business value from investing in secure cloud platforms and data compliance will come not only through cost savings and risk mitigation, but also from increased brand loyalty, customer satisfaction, and partner trust.
Blog post by Bernard Geoghegan, Managing Director, EMEA and Asia Pacific
Join Bernard Geoghegan from Digital Realty and Forrester Researcher Enza Iannopollo as they discuss the impact of data privacy on the creation of business value, and show you how to achieve effective data protection in the cloud with the new European Cloud Standardisation Guidelines >> Click here to register
 CIOs: Boost Confidence In The Cloud With New European Standardisation Guidelines