Millions of businesses rely on cloud technology each day, and recent revelations about PRISM have thrown data security back into the spotlight, demonstrating that where your data is physically located can really matter.
Where's the cloud?
Over the last five years or so more and more companies have started moving business data to the cloud. But while the benefits of the technology are clear, the implications are often not.
In truth, cloud technology can present some real challenges. Not enough companies are giving thought to the legal and physical implications of the cloud. I believe cloud providers have a responsibility to highlight these factors, of which location is one.
Location, location, location
It's widely accepted that companies should hold data in a secure facility (usually a building called a data centre, constructed specifically for the purpose). The location of that facility often get overlooked, but it matters.
For starters, some regions are prone to natural events such as earthquakes or floods. Others are beset by political instability and unrest.
The Euro crisis has hit confidence in some European countries which were previously considered rock-solid.
And then there's growing interference by governments - yes, we're back to PRISM again.
In light of these concerns, you're well-advised to investigate the setting of any potential cloud provider's facilities.
Where is right for you?
When evaluating the location of a cloud provider or hosting firm, these are the main factors to consider:
- Environmental risk. For instance, is the area prone to earthquakes or flooding?
- Political stability. Can you be confident the business environment won't change?
- An efficient legal system. If something goes wrong, you want a framework that makes it easy to seek redress.
- Low crime and corruption. You can be more confident about your data safety.
- Respect for confidentiality. After all, your business data is likely to be sensitive.
Not only do you need to keep your data secure, but you also need to maintain a competitive edge.
Cloud services give you extra flexibility and make it easy for you to work on the move, but location plays a part in competitiveness too.
For instance, server response times can vary significantly depending on whether your servers are located relatively nearby (the same country or continent), or further afield (like the other side of the world).
This can have a very real influence on your website's search rankings, because load speed is one of the factors Google takes into account.
These are just some of the reasons your business should pay attention to the location of servers holding your data. Have you give it much thought?
Mateo Meier is founder of Artmotion, which offers hosting services located in Switzerland.