We have entered a new era in computing, one in which users are utilizing computing power that they do not own directly and which is located somewhere else, in “the cloud”.
The rapid growth of cloud computing offers tremendous potential for new innovations, efficiencies, and cost savings for governments, businesses, and individuals alike. These benefits have the potential to transform businesses; provide new innovations to consumers; and improve important services, such as health care and government-provided services.
However, before the potential of cloud computing can fully be exploited users need more confidence in the security, privacy, and portability of their data. The different legal requirements in different countries remain an obstacle for service vendors and reliable high-speed bandwidth is a necessity. Governments, together with the private sector, must address those issues to expand cloud potential to help fuel economic growth in Europe.
Cloud computing benefits for SMEs
SMEs represent more than 99% of all businesses and employ more than 90 million people in Europe. This means that 67% of the private sector workforce works for an SME. Europe’s economy relies heavily on SMEs. But research suggests that over 50% of small businesses fail in the first year and 95% within the first five years, with one of the most common pitfalls being a failure to embrace new technologies. With the Cloud, SMEs can focus more on their business and less on hardware and software investments and maintenance.
The need for a Single Digital Market
Microsoft supports a “pro-cloud” framework for Europe – a framework that drives cloud innovation and uptake, that allows for the secure and efficient flow of data across national and international borders, that facilitates the conduct of business in multiple markets, and that exploits the economic advantages of the Single Market.
Mario Monti’s Report on the Single Market laid out that the EU could gain 4 % of GDP by stimulating the fast development of the digital single market by 2020. Microsoft is convinced that a high-performance digital European market will make Europe better able to compete with the rest of the world by giving it a competitive edge which is based on knowledge, a highly qualified workforce and innovative economic and social models. The link between cloud computing and the digital single market is increasingly being acknowledged by EU policy makers. One of cloud computing’s most important benefits is that it can transcend national boundaries, enabling SMEs to offer IT services and solutions that reach beyond domestic markets. Consequently, divergent national laws within the EU – such as those governing the retention of, jurisdiction over and access to data – unnecessarily increase the costs of delivering cross-border cloud services, limiting the potential benefits for SMEs. Such divergences must be eliminated, and replaced by a true digital single market for the cloud and other online services.
Security in the cloud
Whether a consumer’s personal information or whether an organization’s mission-critical data is stored in-house or is on a hosted server and sent across the Internet, we recognize that all of these environments must provide a “Trustworthy Computing” experience. Designing for a secure environment is always a challenge as new threats continue to emerge on a regular basis. While the challenges of providing security and privacy are evolving along with the cloud, Microsoft remains committed to build secure systems and datacenters to protect individuals’ privacy. Microsoft Online Services apply the principle of "defense in depth“, a layered security strategy that independently defends the various components of a service: the application, the supporting infrastructure and hardware, the network and the data center facility.
Privacy in the cloud
Microsoft has been addressing security and privacy issues associated with cloud computing since 1994, when we delivered our first online services for consumers and enterprises. Since then, our experience has shaped our corporate privacy policies, our product and service development guidelines, and our business practices, all of which we are now adapting to our newer cloud services. We are committed to maintaining the highest standards of privacy and security in our online services, and we look forward to partnering with industry leaders, governments, and consumer organizations to develop globally consistent privacy frameworks that will maximize the economic and social benefits of cloud computing.
When customers create data in an on-premises application, they trust that they have control over the data stored in their PCs or IT infrastructures. Customers should have a comparable level of control over their data when they are using cloud platforms. Well-designed cloud platforms can help achieve all of these goals. In building its cloud platform, Microsoft has worked closely with customers and partners to understand their needs for interoperable solutions.
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