Only a few years ago the idea of letting valued digital data leave an office was something baulked at by many businesses, but not so today.
Exactly how many companies now use the cloud for most, if not all of their computing needs is not easy to calculate because things are changing so fast.
However, Marlon Fetzner, a director of corporate, external and legal affairs with Microsoft, estimates the current percentage rate of growth in cloud computing use is in “triple figures”.
Most businesses now regard cloud computing as something that lowers costs and provides a competitive edge.
“People see that their competitors are lowering costs by using the cloud,” said Mr Fetzner.
He commented on the growth in cloud computing during a visit to Bermuda this week, where he was one of the speakers at a Trusted Cloud Keynote event, hosted in partnership with Hamilton-based Fireminds Ltd.
Data residency, data security and the benefits of the cloud were discussed by Mr Fetzner and Renatto Garro, a Microsoft Partner Technology Strategist.
With stories of ransomware and hacking attacks regularly appearing in the news, it was a timely choice of topics.
Mr Fetzner said the keynote event was an opportunity to have an open conversation about some of the myths regarding the cloud, particularly as they pertain to data security and data residency.
Technology firm Fireminds, which earlier this week was named Microsoft’s 2016 Partner of the Year for the island, operates a Microsoft Azure node at its data centre. The node is a cloud-computing platform and infrastructure created by Microsoft.
Among the messages presented by Mr Fetzner at the event was Microsoft’s adherence to the principals of transparency and regulation compliance.
Adding further explanation, he said there were four basic commitments.
“One is security. That is physical security of the servers and technical security,” he said. Security of data is achieved through encryption when it is stored or transferred between centres or to and from clients.
Then there is the commitment to privacy. Mr Fetzner said client data is not scanned by advertisers, and Microsoft provides logs to show that no unauthorised person has accessed a client’s data.
Transparency is also key, this includes notification of requests about services from law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, he said Microsoft is committed to compliance and international data standards and laws.
Data residency has been a talking point for many years, and has a number of complexities. For example, some companies may wish that a portion or all of their data reside in a specific geographical place; that may be for legal or regulatory reasons.
Michael Branco, chief executive officer of Fireminds, said: “Data residency is 40 or 50 per cent of the conversation.”
He noted that some companies choose to split their cloud data between Bermuda and elsewhere, while others do not care about where the data is kept, so long as it is secure.
“Data residency is always a matter of opinion depending on your perspective.”
The keynote event was attended by professionals from the legal, financial and information technology fields.
Mr Fetzner said Microsoft, because of its size and resources, could match and surpass the services offered by rival cloud operators.
Giving an example, he mentioned the company’s proactive approach to detecting data breaches and potential weaknesses.
“Data is safe if it’s with Microsoft. We have 24/7 monitoring of our servers. We have a lot of resources to make sure our products are the best,” he said.
He also mentioned Microsoft’s “red team”, a highly specialised group of security experts that operates separately from and as adversaries to the cloud team, constantly attacking in order to strengthen threat detection, response and defence of the cloud services enterprise.
Microsoft has many data centre locations with “99.9 per cent uptime”, said Mr Fetzner.
In Bermuda, Fireminds has been involved in cloud computing for ten years. Mr Branco said the Azure node operated by Fireminds has all the features of a Microsoft centre.
“Microsoft have been amazing in terms of their partnership. They have given us a ton of support, and we have invested a lot in this centre.”
Regarding the migration trend to cloud computing, he said: “Ten years ago people looked at the cloud cautiously. They were used to having all their stuff in their own building. But in the last five years cloud has become mainstream. The majority of businesses are now using the cloud.”