Microsoft steers focus off data location rules

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Concern on cloud security, not server location.

Microsoft Australia has urged the Federal Government to take a more relaxed view on data location rules that prevent organisations using cloud compute services.

In a submission response to the cyber safety white paper [pdf], chief security advisor James Kavanagh sought regulations or guidelines that reflected "a risk-based approach to data storage considerations".

Such an approach, he said, would "allow users to take advantage of best-in-breed services regardless of where the data is hosted".

Kavanagh made specific reference to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), which has oversight of outsourcing agreements signed by financial institutions and enforces regulations that prevents customer data being hosted offshore.

He said that it was the "extent of the security around a data storage system ... that [was] critical, not the geographic location of the servers."

Microsoft used part of its lengthy submission to argue that the level of security embedded in large computes was far superior to that which could be attained by organisations independently.

Kavanagh said that cloud assurance levels should be balanced "with the level of assurance that can be gained with systems located on-premise."

The vendor urged the Federal Government to "encourage" small businesses, in particular, to adopt cloud computing to offset security risks presented by the current online environment.

And it urged that the Government not consider imposing roadblocks that would prevent SMEs from moving to the cloud.

"Government should provide guidance to encourage the adoption of cloud computing by the small business sector to not only achieve cost efficiencies, reach global markets and innovate, but importantly to improve the effectiveness of their information security risk management," Kavanagh stated.

"Legislative, regulatory or administrative measures that inhibit cloud computing would be damaging to small business.

"Certainly Microsoft recognises there are considerations and risks regarding cloud computing that will continue to be discussed and resolved with government, but we believe strongly that for the small and medium business sector, these risks are overwhelmingly balanced by the security benefits outlined."

Kavanagh's comments come less than a week after Telstra came under fire over its migration of BigPond email data to Microsoft's cloud offshore.

However, Microsoft is not alone in calling for a bypass of data sovereignty fears. Salesforce.com has previously lobbied the Federal Government to ease concerns over cloud adoption on similar security grounds.

Copyright © SC Magazine, Australia


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