Switzerland in the Cloud - What does this mean for Swiss companies?

October 22, 2019

For a long time, it was merely speculation in the media - but now Microsoft's Swiss cloud is a reality. The first two data centers in Zurich and Geneva have gone live. What does this mean for the use of 0ffice 365 and ahead?

What does this mean for ahead?

For companies that are subject to strict regulations, it has not been possible to benefit from an intranet-as-a-service like ahead because the data was not allowed to be located abroad. Until now, it has been virtually impossible for these companies to be in the cloud, which has restricted the employees in their work locations. In the future, however, it will be possible to operate ahead in the Swiss data center and thus guarantee that the data remains in Switzerland. Read more about the Cloud from Microsoft now.

For many Swiss companies nothing will change for the time being. The majority of companies have not yet dared to take the step into the cloud. One reason for this is that for the Swiss, the cloud has always been associated with the release of data abroad. However, the introduction of the Swiss data centers has removed this hurdle. The Swiss economy has nevertheless shown courage with regard to the Cloud. Even before the launch date, 30 Swiss companies decided to migrate their applications to the Swiss Microsoft Cloud as "early adopters".

The unfounded fear of going to the cloud

It is often concrete obstacles such as regulations that make the path to the cloud seem impossible. Until now, the cloud has meant for Swiss companies to transfer their data abroad. It is precisely this step that many companies feared. This fact is often cited as the main reason why Swiss companies have not yet decided to implement a cloud strategy. Microsoft has now addressed this fear by introducing the Swiss data centers. Marianne Janik, CEO of Microsoft Switzerland, says: "The Microsoft Cloud Data Centers are an investment for us in Switzerland - for Switzerland. In discussions with our customers, it has become very clear that local data storage is extremely important for them. We are very proud that we are now able to guarantee this". With local data storage, Microsoft is making it easier for Swiss companies to enter the cloud and to remove the aforementioned hurdles. According to Primo Amrein, Cloud Lead at Microsoft Switzerland, data storage in Switzerland is even contractually guaranteed. This is an additional measure to create more confidence in the cloud.

The use of the cloud in regulated industries

Industries that are subject to strict regulations often set up additional safety guidelines themselves. One example of this is the financial industry. In practice, said Marc Holitscher, National Technology Officer of Microsoft Switzerland, in an interview with isolutions, the cloud service provider and the customer must find a solution together to implement the given and self-imposed requirements.

In the financial sector, companies come into contact with highly sensitive data on a daily basis and therefore rely on the highest possible security with regard to data handling. It is therefore all the more interesting that this industry, which is subject to high regulatory requirements, has dared to take the step into the cloud. Even before the go-live in Switzerland, the early adopters migrated their data to the cloud - with the blessing of FINMA. The insurance company Helsana, for example, has already stored its customer data in the cloud. FINMA issued a circular stating that professional secrecy would not be compromised by cloud services. The outsourcing of IT services to cloud providers is therefore generally permissible. However, it is essential that the usual requirements (compliance) for data security are met.

For heavily regulated industries, it is important that companies comply with the defined safety standards. Where the data ultimately resides only plays a secondary role. These industries in particular are now benefiting enormously from geo-redundancy via the cloud regions of Zurich and Geneva. In the event of a disaster, operational continuity can be ensured.

Marc Holitscher says: "We not only see the opportunities of the cloud, we also want to take responsibility. Trust is a core Swiss value and trust is deeply rooted in the way we protect, operate and develop our platform". For example, Microsoft does not pass on business customer data to advertising-supported services, nor is business customer data evaluated for marketing or advertising. Marc Holitscher states: "The data belongs to our customers and we process it according to the specifications of our customers. We also work closely with regulatory authorities - in Switzerland and around the world - to address the legal requirements of various industries".

The Cloud Act - disclosure of data

Generally, Us Cloud Act requires all cloud providers to disclose customer information that is in their physical possession or under their control. However, the disclosure of this data is only intended for criminal investigations and requires a court order. According to the contribution by David Rosenthal - himself a lawyer at the renowned Zurich law firm Homburger - this regulation is in line with the European "Cybercrime Convention", which has also applied to Switzerland since 2012. "Switzerland has implemented it more freely. Access to the cloud is generally carried out without a court order," says Rosenthal in the recently published article.

In criminal investigations, a judicial authority would also have access to the data in a company's own data centre. The Cloud Act even goes one step further here: access to the data may only be granted through the normal and legal business activities of the provider. This therefore rules out the illegal procurement of electronic keys or the intrusion into systems.

What will happen to the cloud in Switzerland?

In a recently published article, Primo Amrein, Cloud Lead at Microsoft Switzerland, reveals what the future of the cloud looks like in Switzerland. According to Primo Amrein, in the next phase, Azure services will first be expanded. The focus will be on Azure Kubernet Services, Azure DB for MySQL and PostgreSQL. Later Azure Functions, Azure Red Hat Openshift and other services will be added. In the next stage, SaaS services such as Power BI and Office 365 will follow. The expansion of Dynamics and Power Platform is already planned for 2020.

There is already a great deal of interest. Many companies are ready to migrate their data to the cloud. The question of the capacities of the Swiss Microsoft data centers is therefore obvious. Primo Amrein assures that capacity will not be in short supply in the future, as expansion steps are already planned. In a first step, the two existing data centers will be expanded. In addition, further data centers are already being planned in the greater Zurich area.

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