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Microsoft enlists Swedes in spy-safe cloud rollout

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Microsoft enlists Swedes in spy-safe cloud rollout
Storing data in the Swedish forest could be safer than global cloud options. File: TT
11:32 CET+01:00
US tech giant Microsoft has tapped a family-owned firm in central Sweden to help launch a new "battle-tested" cloud service to ease the fear of companies worried about internet espionage. The key? To store data locally.
Karlstad, Sweden-based Ipeer is one of only five cloud-hosting companies around the world chosen by Microsoft to beta test its new Azure Pack technology.
 
"Data sovereignty is increasingly the name of the game," Ipeer marketing manager Erik Arnberg told The Local. "Many of the largest cloud providers can't even tell you with any certainty where exactly your data is when it's stored."
 
The news service is aimed at solving that conundrum, by keeping data locally and hopefully giving clients a better idea of which country's laws apply to their data.
 
"This is a new chapter in the cloud-hosting wars," Arnberg said. "We can guarantee that data is stored in Sweden with very battle-tested technology from Windows."
 
In the wake of recent revelations about internet eavesdropping by the US National Security Agency (NSA), clients are increasingly concerned about where their data resides and what laws apply, Arnberg explained.
 
"When the NSA scandal broke and companies saw the breadth of the surveillance, a lot of them started to rethink their approach to data safety and how they protected their data," he said.
 
Rather than entrust their data to giant computing clouds managed by US-based giants like Amazon and Google, Swedish companies are instead looking to smaller, local providers that fall under one legal jurisdiction and aren't as susceptible to snooping by foreign intelligence agencies or corporate spies.
 
Arnberg stressed that it remained hard to pinpoint exactly where and through which countries data sent over the internet travels, but Ipeer can assure that data stored using its cloud services would remain in Sweden.
 
While Microsoft is also a major US-based player in the cloud computing game, the software giant is betting that smaller, local firms like Ipeer getting access to its Azure Pack technology will ultimately give Microsoft a leg up with customers worried about where their data is stored.
 
"Concerns about data integrity are very much alive in Sweden. Companies are producing more and more data, and much of it is very sensitive," said Arnberg.
 
The move will allow hosting partners and smaller companies to set up their own local clouds, but with the same technology used in Microsoft's Azure Cloud. He added that Microsoft was "bucking the trend" of having large, one-size-fits-all clouds. He said he expected that more local providers would  jump on the bandwagon after the beta-testing phase, which ends in January 2014.
 
Being one of the few firms globally chosen by the US software giant is a big boost for family-owned Ipeer, which was founded in 2006 in Karlstad, central Sweden, and currently employs about 60 people in offices in Karlstad, Stockholm and Bangalore, India.
 
"This is immensely important to Ipeer and to Karlstad," said Arnberg, who noted the firm's home-base was recently honoured as Sweden's best IT municipality.
 
"There are data centers in that deep Swedish forest!" he quipped.

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