Part of our daily life
Cloud computing is becoming a part of everyday life. Most of us use webmail services and social networks to communicate; we can also use the cloud to store and share our photos and videos.
I wrote and edited this text on a blog publishing platform in the cloud – maybe you use a cloud service to receive our blog contents as an RSS feed.
Cloud services are not just for consumers. Enterprises increasingly rely on the cloud for flexible access to storage space and computing power for their business needs. Normally, this goes unnoticed, but when Amazon’s cloud services failed earlier this year, it caused disruption for popular web services such as Netflix, AirBnB and Instagram.
Cloud computing benefits for consumers and businesses include:
- reduced cost: cheap or free services for consumers, and cost savings for businesses compared to dedicated infrastructure;
- flexibility and scalability of storage space and computing power;
- no need to acquire, install and maintain software packages;
- protection from data loss through remote backups;
- easy access to cloud services from any internet-connected device;
- “green” technology, as the sharing of infrastructure saves energy and materials.
By 2020, cloud computing could boost EU GDP by €160 billion annually, and create up to 2.5 million new jobs, according to European Commission estimates.
… and substantial risks
On the other hand, there are risks that need to be addressed:
- service availability, performance and data integrity must be guaranteed in contracts with cloud service providers;
- portability of data is required when users change their cloud service provider;
- as recent spying scandals have highlighted, high standards of security are needed to ensure confidentiality, privacy and the respect of data protection laws.
A European strategy…
In September 2012, the European Commission adopted a cloud computing strategy focused on three elements:
- Safe and fair contract terms and conditions;
- Coordination of cloud standards to assure interoperability and security;
- A European cloud partnership which brings together industry experts and public sector users.
On 14 October 2013, the European Parliament’s industry Committee adopted a report welcoming the strategy and insisting on better information and protection of consumers.
The European Council meeting of 24-25 October 2013 concluded that the EU should be “at the forefront of cloud adoption” and called for a strong network of national digital coordinators.
… and action!
Implementation of the cloud strategy is going ahead. On 28 October 2013, the Commission set up an expert group for safe and fair terms for cloud computing contracts.
Cloud-for-Europe (C4E), an EU initiative to boost the uptake of cloud services by the public sector, will be launched on 14 November in Berlin. C4E, involving 23 organisations from 11 countries, aims to build trust in European cloud computing and define public sector requirements and use cases.
If these initiatives contribute to making Europe the world’s leading ‘trusted cloud region’, a bright future lies ahead.