"Data residency" and "sovereignty" are more than buzzwords bandied about by cloud providers; it's a legitimate concern for the growing number of companies around the world.
Whether sparked by the National Security Agency cyber-spying scandal or the U.S. government's attempts to obtain data from servers located in Ireland, businesses harbor concerns that their customer records, confidential files, emails and other sensitive information stored on the cloud may be accessed at the whim of foreign authorities, agencies and other unauthorized persons. In the United Kingdom, Microsoft is now putting those concerns to rest.
The company today said that its Azure cloud computing services and Office 365 are now available in the region from local data centers. Dynamics CRM Online will follow suit in the first half of 2017. CEO Satya Nadella (pictured) first announced Microsoft's plans to open the UK-based data centers in November 2015 during the company's Future Decoded conference in London.
"The recent announcement of local UK data centers by Microsoft in London, Durham and Cardiff is part of a bigger picture of the large cloud computing providers 'setting up shop' on local territory to provide better access and performance of their cloud products and services," Mark Skilton, a security researcher and professor in the Information Systems and Management Group at Warwick Business School, wrote in an email sent to eWEEK.
"These new Microsoft Cloud regions will help businesses in industries, such as banking, government, public sector and health care, meet their customers' needs, the regulatory requirements they are held to, and the need for local data residency and replication for business continuity," wrote Takeshi Numoto, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise division, in a Sept. 6 blog post.
"With our trusted cloud now delivered locally, and our commitment to principles of security, privacy, transparency, compliance and availability, we are well placed to support the digital transformation of organizations throughout the country," commented Cindy Rose, chief executive of Microsoft UK in a separate Sept. 7 announcement.
Among the first customers to move to the company's UK-based cloud is the Ministry of Defence (MOD), which employs 250,000, noted Numoto. Getting the MOD on board is not only a big win for Microsoft, but for the cloud computing market at large, according to Skilton.
"The fact that organizations like the MOD will consider external cloud data centers has been something of a turning point for companies that have originally been in the public cloud market and perceived as inherently insecure alongside all kinds of public tenants," he said. "Modern cloud computing security partitioning, software-defined networks and infrastructure are enabling new robust levels of encryption and secure access, enabling part or whole migration of organizations' content to be managed as a secure cloud service."
Also making the switch is the country's largest mental health trust, the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, along with high-end automaker Aston Martin, according to Microsoft.