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Steelie Neelie: One cloud contract model to rule them all

The road to hell's paved with good intentions, though

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The European Commission is seeking leading lights in the arena of cloud services to help sketch out a contract framework so that customers don't get tied into murky deals.

At least, this is the principle that Steelie Neelie Kroes, vice president of the EC outlined in a blog today, ahead of the European Cloud Partnership Steering board in Estonia next month.

"One of the big barriers to using cloud computing is a lack of trust," she said. "People don't always understand what they're paying for, and what they can expect."

"I think you should be able to know what you're getting and what it means - and it should be easy to ensure that the terms in your contract are reasonable: open, transparent, safe and fair."

A "formal expert group" is to be set up to undertake this task, which the EC said is particularly sought after by SMEs.

These small biz owners may "hesitate to use the cloud because of fears that they will not meet legal obligations, or who might be worried that they get locked in or stranded by changes of technology or service by cloud providers", said Kroes.

She said SMEs don't want to take the risk of "getting mired in foreign court cases", are fearful of exposing their data to security risks or breaches and cant afford to enlist m'learned friends to "figure all this out case by case".

And these small firms are the profile of company that stand to gain most from the cloud - which is utility based and supposedly adaptable.

Model Contract Terms is one of the four "key pillars" of the EC's cloud computing strategy, rolled out last September, which also include defining technical standards; a certification scheme for service providers; and raising cloud adoption in public sector with local cloud firms.

The EU began reforming the Data Protection Law back in January last year; nearly 17 years after the previous legislation was drafted in 1995. It had been written before the internet became mainstream.

It was in response to concerns from customers over data protection and data security, as many of the major cloud providers are based in the US.

As most business owners know, the road to hell is littered with good intentions. Too many EU certifications and standards may hinder cloud adoption, rather than drive demand.

David McLeman, boss at Google Enterprise Partner Ancoris, said there was "no doubt that too many regulations cause a problem" but he believed the EC's heart is in the right place.

"Established principles and a light touch might be the right way to go," he told The Channel.

Cloud providers including Google signed up to the EU Standard Model Contract Clauses, to show that data processing outside of the region meet requirements of the Euro data protection legislation.

But a report commissioned by the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs stated the model contract clauses and binding corporate rules do not prevent US law enforcement agencies accessing that data.

The report was published in January, well before the recent PRISM snooping revelations. ®

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