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Big news hit the cloud computing industry in early May: Microsoft opened its two newest datacenters in Canada! Office 365 and Azure customers can now have their data hosted on Canadian soil. This comes just months after Amazon announced the opening of its first datacenter here. Obviously, the two giants see Canadian datacenters as a great business opportunity. So, what’s the interest in hosting data in Canada? Is Microsoft Azure’s Canadian cloud announcement really good news for Canadian businesses? And more importantly, is Microsoft’s cloud truly Canadian? Let’s find out!

Location, Location, Location: Microsoft’s Promise to Canadian-based Customers

When Microsoft touts its new Canadian datacenters to its customers, what it’s really selling are the advantages of locally hosted data. Microsoft reports it has built these new datacenters to provide Canadian organizations in both the public and private sectors with all the benefits of the cloud: smarter solutions, cost savings, efficiency, productivity and reliability. With these new datacenters in Quebec and Toronto, there’s no doubt they will deliver on this promise.

But, despite the headline above this paragraph, location isn’t everything. What we really want to know is how Microsoft ensures data sovereignty for Canadians. In other words, will data hosted in Canada through Microsoft Azure’s Canadian cloud be considered truly Canadian and subject only to Canadian laws? For us, a truly Canadian Cloud means more than location. It’s also a question of legality. As we’ll show you, Microsoft’s new Canadian Datacenter has much less to offer in terms of data sovereignty.

Understanding Data Sovereignty

Data sovereignty is pretty straightforward. Also known as data residency, it requires that digital assets be subject to the laws of the country in which they are stored. As far as Canada is concerned, the PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act) defines how private sector organizations should handle the collection of personal information, with specific standards on data disclosure. So whether your cloud infrastructure is hosted in a Canadian datacenter operated by Microsoft, Amazon, Sherweb or any other provider, your data will be subject to Canadian jurisdiction.

Where things start to get tricky is when you realize that each cloud company is also subject to the laws of the country in which it is registered. This is the fine line that exists in data sovereignty. For example, the USA Patriot Act gives US national security and law enforcement agencies the right to conduct surveillance and access business data to detect and prevent possible acts of terrorism. It doesn’t matter where the data is stored, as long as it is being stored by an American company. This means that Microsoft Azure’s Canadian cloud or a cloud from any other US provider are also subject to these laws and that this obligation extends to their operations in Canada. It’s not that your activities would be illegal. It’s simply because the laws are different and the information you collect, process and store on your provider’s servers could raise questions in the US. This creates a situation in which a Canadian company, which has data in Canada and is doing business only in Canada, might be subject to the legal jurisdiction of another country. If this situation makes you uncomfortable, consider this: In this context, Microsoft’s Azure’s Canadian cloud offering cannot be defined as a truly Canadian Cloud.

How to Choose an All-Canadian Cloud

The first thing you should do when choosing a Canadian cloud is to ensure that the provider can tell you exactly where in Canada the data is located. Then you have to confirm that the company and its parent company’s headquarters are also registered in Canada. While the process of selecting a true national cloud is pretty simple, you’d be surprised to learn that many of the cloud’s largest providers can’t meet these criteria.

Sherweb is 100% Canadian-owned. We offer high performance cloud servers and databases that are hosted in our Tier 3+ datacenters right here in Canada. We comply with SOC 2 Type II security standards and are audited by KPMG, an international auditing firm. We designed our infrastructure to outperform the big names, relying on the best hardware and technology available. And we have the proof to back it up! So by choosing us, you’re not only choosing a Canadian partner, you’re choosing the best Canadian Infrastructure-as-a-Service offer on the market! More than that, with free access to our cloud architects and complete solutions, you’ll discover that you can do much more with the cloud than you ever imagined! Hosting is in our blood, we’ve been doing it for 18 years!

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Written by Guillaume Boisvert Director, Product Innovation @ Sherweb

Guillaume identifies and evaluates new solutions and product features that help Sherweb and its partners grow and compete. He’s also in charge of Office Protect, and led the team responsible for building and commercializing Sherweb’s in-house security service. He has almost two decades of experience developing software-as-a-service (SaaS), both as a technical lead and as a product manager.