Use of Sovereign Clouds for Country-Specific Data

Improved Cloud Security a Welcome Reassurance for Cloud-Hosted Websites

Try to travel outside your country of citizenship without a passport and see how far you get. Likely no further than the airport or terminal of either sort, and that is the way it should be considering there are some people – and some things – that aren’t allowed to leave the country. It’s best that they stay in, or it’s best that they aren’t to be elsewhere in the world. The last part of that would apply to anyone who’s a risk to others, but the first part of it can apply to big data too.

There are companies that need to give federal governments the assurance that some of the data they collect from customers or investors doesn’t go beyond their borders, and a good example of this would be manufacturers who work with the Department of Defence or others who have patents on manufactured goods where the government has a vested stake in keeping that technology under wraps and out of the eyes of others in different countries where patent laws aren’t adhered to the same way they are here.

All of this comes at a time when the ongoing shift to cloud computing is as strong as ever, and where the need to not have the bulk and expense of physical data storage is a huge plus for companies of all sorts. This is the aspect that we can relate to here at 4GoodHosting with our being a good Canadian web hosting provider that can see the bigger picture with anything digital despite our being a mere bit player who ensure that a company’s website is always there and open for business or at the very least connection on the World Wide Web.

The need for cloud storage while staying inside laws around domestic data control has led to what are called ‘Sovereign’ Clouds, and that’s what we are going to look at with this week’s blog entry.

Protecting Interests

Banking is another prominent example here of an industry that has been very eager to adopt cloud computing where certain data segments need to be kept within the country. Insurance, healthcare, and the public sector are other ones where complying with laws and requirements within specific regions is important. Sovereign clouds are the type of cloud architecture that has been developed to meet this need.

They are semi-public cloud services that are owned, controlled, and operated by a particular country or region. In some instances that controller may be a cloud provider serving a smaller nation or region. They may be owned by the local government outright or by a consortium of private and public organizations, or owned by private companies that work closely with the government.

The objective of sovereign clouds is to provide computing infrastructure that can support specific government services. Most notably with protecting sensitive data and complying with laws and regulations specific to a country or region. Until not long ago mega cloud providers that served all countries were quite standard, but even with introduction of sovereign clouds ad the shift to them we will likely continue to need the hyperscalers for some systems that are less cost-effective to run on sovereign clouds.

It’s always going to be the case that sovereign clouds are part of multi-cloud deployments, and having the acceptance of multi-cloud and its flexibility driving new interest in sovereign clouds is what we’re seeing today.

Sovereign Cloud Benefits

Increased control and ownership of data is far and away the most prominent advantage to having big data in a sovereign cloud. It ensures that data is stored and managed in compliance with local regulations and laws, including keeping data in specific countries or regions. Use of public clouds might put you at risk of having your data made available outside of the country, and it might not be a situation where anyone or any group has done something ‘wrong’ to allow that to happen.

Sovereign clouds take that possible risk out of the equation since they physically exist in the country they support. Enhanced security measures are another big part of the appeal for sovereign clouds. They offer more unique encryption, access controls, and network segmentation that also may be tailored to specific countries or regions. Larger public clouds may provide the same or better services, but the way sovereign cloud security systems are purpose-built for a specific country’s laws and regulations results in superiority for supporting data security measures for that country.

Other benefits:

  • Higher service availability and reliability levels in comparison to commercial cloud providers
  • Customizability for meeting the specific needs of a country or organization, including compliance requirements, data storage, and processing capabilities
  • Creation of jobs and supporting local economic development

Sovereign Cloud Drawbacks

It is always possible that a sovereign cloud may not be compatible with other cloud infrastructures, resulting in the chance interoperability and data exchange challenges. Data privacy concerns are legit too, as there’s been plenty of instances across history where governments have taken advantage of having this type of control. Many companies prefer to use global public cloud providers if they believe that their local sovereign cloud could be compromised by the government.

Sovereign clouds may not have the same capacity for speedy adoption of new technologies and services compared to global cloud providers. This might limit their ability to innovate and remain competitive. Sovereign clouds won’t likely be able to offer the same types of services, considering that they don’t have billions to spend on R&D like the larger providers. Flexibility and autonomy may be lessened or compromised as organizations that rely on a sovereign cloud may end up having a dysfunction based on being dependent on the government or consortium operating it.

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