Who Owns Your Data?

02 August 2012

Cloud computingWho owns your data if it resides in the cloud somewhere?  Let’s say that you are using a cloud based CRM system and the company delivering it goes into receivership.  What happens to your data?  Can the receiver sell it to a competitor?  Can they even demand that you buy it back from them under threat of refusal to give you access to it?  Even worse (if that’s possible) they could just decide to blank the disk storage and sell it for scrap to recover funds.

Microsoft’s announcement last week that it will collaborate with NZ hosting company Revera to provide its public cloud systems on Revera’s private cloud infrastructure goes a long way towards addressing this issue for New Zealand businesses

The alliance will create a hybrid cloud service that Revera has called ‘Homeland Collaboration’.  In real terms what this means is that cloud computing services – originally developed for the retail/consumer market driven mainly by US companies – are now more aligned to the needs of the New Zealand businesses adopting them.

Data sovereignty relates to the Laws under which cloud services operate.  These Laws are usually focused on the physical location of the servers that deliver the service.   Prior to this new hybrid cloud service, a New Zealand user could end up subject to US Law or the Law of one of its States in the event of any dispute.  This is potentially confusing, complex and very, very expensive.  Put simply, the hybrid cloud service brings New Zealand businesses back under the jurisdiction of New Zealand law.

Hat’s off to Revera – a fantastic example of a Kiwi company seeing the gap and taking the initiative to fill it – to the benefit of all.  But don’t be lulled into a false sense of security, data ownership is still covered by the contract in place with the service provider (eg Microsoft, Rackspace or Salesforce.com) so READ THE SMALLPRINT carefully and make sure that you know how they deal with data ownership before you sign up.