Fabian Demicoli

New guidelines to help EU businesses use the Cloud


Guidelines to help business
users save money and get the most out of cloud computing services are being
presented to the European Commission. Cloud computing allows individuals,
businesses and the public sector to store their data and carry out data
processing in remote data centres, saving on average 10-20%.

The guidelines have been
developed by a Cloud Select Industry Group as part of the Commission's European
Cloud Strategy to increase trust in these services.

This announcement is a
first step towards standardised building blocks for Service Level Agreements
(SLAs) terminology and metrics. An SLA is a part of a service contract that
defines the technical and legal aspects of the service offered. The recent
findings of the Trusted Cloud Europe survey show SLA standards are very much
required by cloud users.

These guidelines will
help professional cloud users ensure essential elements are included in plain
language in contracts they make with cloud providers. Relevant items include:

The
availability and reliability of the cloud service,

The quality of support services they will receive from
their cloud provider

Security
levels

How to better
manage the data they keep in the cloud.

European Commission
Vice-President said: "This is the first time cloud suppliers have agreed
on common guidelines for service level agreements. I think small businesses in
particular will benefit from having these guidelines at hand when searching for
cloud services."

Vice-President Viviane Reding
said: "These new guidelines will help generate trust in innovative
computing solutions and help EU citizens save money. More trust means more
revenue for companies in Europe's digital single market." She added:
"This is the same spirit as the EU data protection reform which aims at
boosting trust. A competitive digital single market needs high standards of
data protection. EU consumers and small firms want safe and fair contract
terms. These new guidelines are a step in the right direction."

As a next step, the European
Commission will test these guidelines with users, in particular SMEs. It will
also be discussed within the Expert Group on Cloud Computing Contracts set by
the Commission in October 2013. This discussion will also involve other C-SIG
activities, for example the data protection Code of Conduct for cloud computing
providers that was prepared by the C-SIG on Code of Conduct.  The draft Code of Conduct has been presented
to the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party (European Data Protection Authorities).

This initiative will have deeper
impact if standardisation of SLAs is done at international level, e.g. through
international standards, such as ISO/IEC 19086. To this end, the C-SIG on SLAs
is also working with the ISO Cloud Computing Working Group, to present a
European position on SLA Standardisation. The SLA guidelines will thus feed
into ISO's effort to establish international standards on SLAs for cloud
computing.

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