New EU guidelines to help businesses get the most out of the Cloud

The European Commission has published new Guidelines today to help business users save money and get the most out of cloud computing services.

Developed by the Cloud Select Industry Group as part of the Commission’s European Cloud Strategy to increase trust in cloud computing services, the Cloud Service Level Agreement Standardisation Guidelines have the backing of top businesses, including ATOS, Cloud Security Alliance, ENISA, IBM, Microsoft, SAP and Telecom Italia.

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%. Today's announcement is the 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. A recent survey has revealed that cloud users are demanding SLA standards.

The guidelines will help professional cloud users ensure essential elements are written into the contracts they make with cloud providers, and in plain language. Relevant information includes:

  • 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 Neelie Kroes 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:

"Today's 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. Today's new guidelines are a step in the right direction."

The European Commission will test these guidelines with users, in particular SMEs. Today's SLA guidelines will also feed into ISO's effort to establish international standards on SLAs for cloud computing.

E RADAR's Will Roebuck said:

"We need to demystify cloud computing for small and medium-sized businesses looking to save money on their IT estate. These new guidelines will go a long way to help build trust and confidence in cloud based services as well as contribute towards growth in the digital economy."

Useful links

Cloud Service Level Agreement Standardisation Guidelines

European Cloud Computing Strategy

Cloud Select Industry Group on Service Level Agreements

Expert Group on Cloud Computing Contracts

All Cloud Computing Strategy Working Groups

C-SIG on SLAs List of Participants Agenda