Cloud offers benefits that can create a great competitive advantage for European businesses. But just how much awareness is there of its value? John Bensalhia finds out from President of EuroCloud Europe, Dr Tobias Höllwarth
The technological revolution has arrived.
With technology creating opportunities in businesses and everyday lifestyles, it’s a trend that is set to remain. One part of this revolution is the cloud, and it’s a facet that offers considerable competitive advantages for European Businesses.
President of EuroCloud Europe, Dr Tobias Höllwarth, explains that the European economy consists primarily of small and medium enterprises. “99.9 percent of all European businesses have fewer than 250 employees, 92 percent have less than ten. This means that the affluence of our continent depends on relatively small businesses that together need to be able to provide sufficient value creation, tax revenues and jobs to sustain our European way of life.”
Dr Höllwarth says that cloud services are part of the technological revolution that has already changed many aspects of our life and will continue to do so in the future: the ways in which we produce, distribute, own, and communicate.
Democratising the economy
“Complex and extensive IT services have become a key production resource for companies,” says Dr Höllwarth. “Even more importantly, this relevant operative production resource is no longer available only to large enterprises with ample capital. Instead, the cloud allows all types of businesses, even small start-ups, to gain access to this production factor with practically unlimited availability quickly and easily. This changes competition fundamentally and allows even small and medium enterprises to become significant competitors in many sectors of the economy.”
“But if we allow the small and medium enterprises to be excluded from fundamental technological developments, then we must also be aware that this choice will have a huge effect on our European prosperity”
“In short, the cloud provides European businesses with massive benefits in terms of growth and competition that are still frequently being underestimated or not recognised at all.”
But with these benefits for the taking, a key question remains: Is Europe adequately prepared for the cloud revolution?
Dr Höllwarth says that the cloud business is currently being dominated by a scant few very influential global players who offer excellent services but are able to command the market as oligopolists. “SMEs generally do not have access to sufficient human resources to tackle the massive challenges related to the introduction and use of complex new technologies.”
“But if we allow the small and medium enterprises to be excluded from fundamental technological developments, then we must also be aware that this choice will have a huge effect on our European prosperity.”
Comprehensive solutions require all-rounders
The various challenges that the cloud revolution entails affect the selection process for cloud services as well as their integration and operation. Dr Höllwarth explains that the hurdles on the path to effective service management in a heterogeneous multi-provider environment require not only IT security specialists but also know-how in the areas of legal compliance, data privacy, data centre operation, the quality of operative processes, and many more.
“The long-predicted lack of specialists is now becoming a reality and a stumbling block for development and economic growth. Educational systems have not yet been appropriately adapted, and a uniform European fiscal and regulative framework is likewise still missing. Nevertheless, as a European one can at least proudly say that the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) represents a fundamental milestone on the road to a sensible order for the digital transformation. The GDPR is ‘Europe at its finest’.”
“This changes competition fundamentally and allows even small and medium enterprises to become significant competitors in many sectors of the economy”
Aside from offering compelling services and attractive commercial propositions, a good cloud provider is characterised by maximum transparency in all relevant areas relating to the provision of its services.
“Transparency concerning the type and quality of the service provision, the involved partners, and the safeguarding measures relating to high-availability operation, security, data privacy, and legal compliance must be documented and communicated in great detail by a truly sound cloud provider,” says Dr Höllwarth. “Such documentation establishes trust.”
“To simply produce an ISO certificate and attempt to pass it off as proof that all necessary evidence has been provided transparently and in a trustworthy manner can almost be viewed as the exact opposite and constituting intentional deception of the customer.”
“The StarAudit model is an extremely cost-efficient way for cloud providers and cloud customers to establish trust quickly an effectively.”
Seal of approval
A notable challenge facing the Austrian Chamber of Commerce was the development of a nationally ‘flavoured’ quality seal that provides competitive benefits to domestic cloud providers while simultaneously helping to improve the quality of the offered services.
“The domestic origin of a provider alone is no guarantee for a high-quality cloud service”
“Developing a completely proprietary quality seal would have been too great of an effort and would have taken one to two years,” says Dr Höllwarth. “Therefore, it was decided that a quality seal based on a qualified self-assessment was to serve as a preliminary for a full certificate verified by a third party. The Chamber also quickly became aware that a national quality seal lacking a proper linkage to an international quality assessment scheme would have little effect. The domestic origin of a provider alone is no guarantee for a high-quality cloud service.”
Dr Höllwarth adds that as a result, the chamber decided to warrant the quality and international impact of the brand “Austrian cloud” with a twofold approach.
“Firstly, the quality of the seal was to be based on objective, transparent, and reproducible criteria, and every single quality disclosure by a cloud provider would have to be published, making it publicly visible and comparable. This form of transparency establishes trust effectively.”
“Secondly, the international strength of the seal was achieved through the cooperation with EuroCloud. The Chamber of Commerce developed the “Austrian cloud” seal based on the EuroCloud StarAudit catalogue of criteria. This created a preliminary for certification and ensured the internationally compatible interlacing of criteria catalogues.”
“In a subsequent step, cloud services that have successfully completed this initial and simple quality assurance process and been issued the “Austrian cloud” quality seal are to be prepared for full-fledged cloud certification according to StarAudit.”