Sovereignty: The Essential Factor When Discriminating Cloud Partners

MARC BROWN May. 18, 2020
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As a follow-up to my last blog, "Data Sovereignty and Cloud SaaS Providers", I thought it was important to dig a little deeper into the fundamental benefits sovereign cloud offers to government, public and private organisations.  

I believe that cloud-based services can offer all organisations significant value. From a cost, maintenance and deployment standpoint, the cloud can deliver applications and data to help organisations move faster and be more competitive. And recent COVID-19 work from home restrictions has proved that organisations with cloud capabilities were able to maintain business continuity more easily.

However, this "anywhere - anytime" access to applications and data can also cause organisational difficulties in terms of regulatory compliance and liability. Data must be managed and controlled, recognising that different countries could demand something different from an organisation, based on its various laws, rules and regulations.

Over and over again, I hear new organisations adopting the cloud, either as a direct IT-driven initiative or indirectly by a business function adopting a new SaaS tool/application. Unfortunately, for many UAE organisations, they adopt a tool/application without understanding the implications of how and where the vendor stores its application data. Vendors promise that they are in compliance with local regulations (and likely are), and must do so to keep business. Nevertheless, many global organisations are not looking out for UAE organisations sovereignty, potentially putting your sensitive data at risk by placing it under another countries regulations.

To mitigate this risk, UAE organisations need to partner with a vendor who can guarantee a sovereign cloud (e.g., Digital14), or use UAE 'sovereign' public cloud services. Aligned with global security best practice, we recommend the use of sovereign cloud to store, process and manage sensitive data. This ensures that: (1) data is always located on UAE soil; (2) personnel with access have the appropriate clearance (Security Cleared+ and Non-Police Personnel Vetting); and (3) personnel with access are also UAE citizens.

A sovereign cloud provides the UAE government and commercial organisations with the ability to capitalise upon a secure, legally compliant public cloud, facilitating its innovation at the same pace as industry and better decision making. Put into practice, these things could have huge benefits across the public sector, providing access to insights that simply cannot be derived in any other way in an acceptable timeframe or at an acceptable cost. Ultimately, this can make the UAE safer, better educated and healthier.

As the UAE government seeks to continually battle the persisting skills gap present amongst technical professionals working to remedy the public and private sector's gradual grasp of cloud practices, clearing the regulatory highway will undoubtedly contribute toward a smoother transition onto these services. There is so much value to be gleaned from the vast amounts of data that the public sector holds that could have an incredibly positive societal impact. This is all just the tip of an enormous iceberg that is increasingly visible thanks to new sovereign public cloud technologies.

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