The cloud has become the backbone of modern business operations. Organisations can store data, run applications and scale their infrastructures easily. However, as the digital landscape evolves, so do the concerns surrounding digital security, privacy and sovereignty. This has given rise to an emerging importance and trend of sovereign cloud services.
What are sovereign cloud services?
Sovereign cloud services refer to cloud computing solutions provided by trusted local entities, such as government and healthcare agencies or national companies. These services prioritise data security, compliance with local regulations and protection of national interests.
The key differentiator between sovereign clouds and traditional cloud providers is the emphasis on keeping data, support and infrastructure within the borders of a specific region. Even as part of a multinational cloud provider, isolated national tooling, support teams, infrastructure and locally controlled encryption can allow a compliant state for digital sovereignty.
The evolving digital landscape
Cyberthreats and data breaches in recent years have significantly reshaped our understanding of data management. Prompted by high-profile cases, companies and governments have reexamined their cloud service strategies to combat cyberthreats and ensure data privacy. In response to the mounting concerns, various countries and economic regions have instituted strict data protection regulations that mandate the local storage and processing of data within their jurisdictions.
Sovereign cloud services help organisations comply with specific regional regulations and concerns by providing localised infrastructure but more importantly, isolated support teams and tools that ensure data does not leave the country. Talking about data sovereignty doesn't go far enough to ensure digital independence. Relying on a cloud provider that has no physical presence in your country can lead to digital dependency, which can have long-term consequences.
Sovereign clouds empower nations and businesses to maintain their digital independence. In the past, some IT professionals have thought this type of service is only required for that top-secret platform that no one talks about, but even platforms hosting a harmless set of data could be used by a foreign nation for malicious intent.
The rising importance of sovereign cloud services can be attributed to their benefits: Organisations gain greater control over their data, reducing the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches. Sovereign clouds also simplify compliance with local data protection laws, ensuring organisations do not inadvertently violate regulations.
Of course, many companies operate on a global scale. For these workloads, a sovereign cloud will probably not be at the top of the list of priorities. Simple use cases can be for public sector, healthcare providers, governmental providers or companies that solely operate within the UK.
Increasing interest in sovereign clouds reflects a desire for greater control over data, enhanced data privacy and security and the protection of national interests. Organisations and governments must consider the benefits and challenges of sovereign cloud services as the digital landscape evolves.
While they may not be a one-size-fits-all solution, they are crucial in our interconnected world's broader conversation about data sovereignty and digital independence. IT professionals need to ask the right questions to providers to ensure their data is safe and if intended to stay within country, to provide complete end-to-end digital sovereignty and not just a “data sovereignty experience.”
Checklist for sovereign cloud:
- Is the platform isolated?
- Are the security staff managing it vetted and based in the UK?
- Does it have zero reliance on global systems?
- Is it compliant with both NCSC and DSP standards?
- Is it a single-tenant or multi-tenant platform, with an air gap?
- If there are shared tenants, are they all from the same region?
The 2023 Cybersecurity Research Report
About the Authors
GM & Director - Sovereign Services
Rick is an enabler of technology capabilities inclusive of engineering, consulting & architecture as well as a key contributor to the firm's overall technology workforce strategy. He is a leader of highly technical senior experts, is passionate about technology, and has proven experience in a wide range of digital and people management area’s. A self-described 'techy' at heart, Rick loves what he does.Read more about Rick Martire