EXCLUSIVE: How Microsoft is building Kiwi trust in the era of cloud computing

"Cloud is not about security, it's about trust."

Generally speaking, cloud computing, whether that it public, hybrid or private, continues to grows in popularity in New Zealand, with adoption rates on the rise.

For Noel, in representing the entire Asia-Pacific region, some companies have decided to utilise Microsoft because “as a cloud provider we have more people focused on security, response and privacy controls that some businesses have in their entire organisation, so maybe it’s better for us to take care of it.”

As the industry knows, the dialogue has changed from not if, but when businesses move to the cloud, with organisations gradually building the blocks of trust when it comes to moving important enterprise assets to the skies.

“The least they are looking for is a baseline assurance that it is secure,” Noel adds. “But also, forward-thinking businesses are looking for ways to innovate within the cloud, and possess better ways of managing and leveraging big data, analytics etc.”

The law of Privacy

While Microsoft will not build major data centres in every country in the world, New Zealand included, it doesn’t detract away from the overriding message which is for Noel, that the future of more ubiquitous mobility and cloud deployment will boil down to trust.

“We don’t touch your data, we stay away from it,” adds Noel, adding that Microsoft receives legal demands for customer data from law enforcement agencies around the world.

But while it may appear overkill, security and privacy in the cloud has been a hot topic following revelations about the US government’s access to data stored with large providers and has provoked some concern about data sovereignty issues for New Zealand organisations.

A common question now being asked is just where is my data held and under what legal and privacy frameworks?

As a result, in March 2013, the company began publishing details of the number of demands it receives each year in its Law Enforcement Requests Report, providing a clear documentation of established practices in responding to government legal demands for customer data.

Across New Zealand, Microsoft has received a total of 52 requests for information, 38.5 percent of which have been rejected, as highlighted in the graphic below.

On a global scale however, beginning late last year when a US court ordered the company to turn over customer email data stored in a Dublin data centre, Microsoft's fight to preserve the stored data continues to gain support from across the world.

Despite the best efforts of US law enforcement to force Microsoft’s hand, coupled with Redmond appealing and losing its case, the tech giant has now took the fight public in the hope of having the ruling reversed.

With the escalation of events prompting an open-editorial in the The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith wrote that "Microsoft believes you own emails stored in the cloud, and that they have the same privacy protection as paper letters sent by mail.

“This means, in our view, that the US government can obtain emails only subject to the full legal protections of the Constitution's Fourth Amendment.

“It means, in this case, that the U.S. government must have a warrant. But under well-established case law, a search warrant cannot reach beyond U.S. shores.”

For Smith, and Noel, it all comes down to playing the game openly and above board, in line with already established rules and regulations and with the privacy of the customer again at its core.

“We will win,” Noel adds confidently, referring to an instance when Microsoft dutifully obliged with the law, following the terrorist attacks on French satirical magazine Charlie Hedbo in January of this year.

“If you take the Charlie Hebdo example, Microsoft was able, with the correct approach from law enforcement, to respond within 45 minutes to a request from the French Police regarding data hosted on Microsoft servers.

“French Police realised that some of the information from the terrorists were hosted by Microsoft so they went through the correct, legal channels and requested we supply the data, which we did immediately. It simply has to be within the realms of the law.”

As internet connections get faster and more reliable in New Zealand, and the convenience of having masses of data available on all devices becomes ever more attractive, the issue of data privacy takes centre stage.

Market feedback suggests that cloud computing is slowly winning the trust war in enterprise but for the Kiwi IT decision makers who remain sceptical, Noel accepts it’s the job of Microsoft, through its cloud expertise, to persuade them otherwise.

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