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Up in the air about a cloud provider?

There are some important reasons your business may want to look for a cloud provider with data centres located exclusively within Canada.

Woman smiling on tablet

Cloud services have transformed the way many IT departments operate, allowing businesses to see improved operational efficiencies, better cost control and IT staff who have more time to focus on innovative projects rather than just keeping the lights on.

With 96% of enterprises using the cloud by the end of last year and 81% reporting they have a multi-cloud strategy, it’s safe to say that virtual computing is something businesses are putting a lot of thought into these days. But, although “cloud” is a term that often gets thrown around, most of us rarely think about what it actually means, and where it actually is.

While the term “cloud” implies something amorphous, it’s really a collection of software and servers residing in a data centre, and where a data centre is physically located can have an impact on your business in several ways.

While some providers utilize a geographical mix of data centre locations (and may not be able to guarantee exactly where your data is housed) others are more conservative about where their data centres are located for a variety of reasons. Here are three reasons why you should consider a cloud provider’s data centre locations before making a decision.

1. Latency

When using cloud services, your device has to communicate with a remote server, meaning both the data for your computing request and the resulting data must travel between your location, your provider’s data centre and back again. The amount of time this all takes is referred to as “round-trip delay time” (RTD) or simply “round-trip time” (RTT).

The farther data has to travel, the longer it takes to get to its destination, just like anything else. This delay is known as latency. Although the length of time it takes for data to travel is measured in milliseconds, and therefore may seem negligible, latency can actually have a real impact on your business. In one study, researchers found that applications running on cloud computer systems can perform as much as 20% more efficiently the closer their cloud provider’s servers are located to their site.

“…applications running on cloud computer systems can perform as much as 20% more efficiently the closer their cloud provider’s servers are located to their site.”

Jacobs School of Engineering, UCSD

Every 20-millisecond increase in latency can reduce webpage load times by seven to 15%.—and slow-loading webpages can negatively affect your website’s Google ranking not to mention frustrate your customers. In fact, 47% of consumers expect a page to load within two seconds or less, and even one second beyond that equates to a whopping 40% drop in visitors.

2. Data sovereignty

Your data is subject to the laws of the country it resides in, and that can have a significant impact on your business. For instance, if your cloud provider uses U.S.-based data centres, any information of your information stored there would be subject to the USA Patriot Act, which permits American law enforcement officials to access anything on your server without notice or consent. In fact, even if your provider’s data centre is in Canada, but your cloud provider is owned by an American company, your information may still be considered within US jurisdiction and potentially accessible by US law enforcement. Furthermore, some industries within certain jurisdictions have compliance regulations regarding how personally identifiable information (PII) should be stored and used, while other regulations, such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), imposes strict rules around data handling, with hefty financial penalties for non-compliance. Therefore, it’s vital to know what countries your data could end up in with your cloud provider and the legal implications involved.

3. On-premises security and physical storage

Since the cloud you’re using is in fact a collection of servers located in a real place rather than some amorphous abstraction, you need to consider how well your cloud provider protects those servers from environmental hazards and crime. From state-of-the-art security tools, such as biometric authentication and video monitoring (which ensure only authorized individuals can access your servers) to temperature control and backup power (which can reduce the risk of outages due to natural disasters) it’s important to understand what physical measures are in place to protect your cloud provider’s data centre(s).

If your cloud provider’s data centre is located nearby, you may be able to schedule an inspection before you commit and arrange visits as needed to ensure their facilities continue to meet your standards.

Although many don’t think of the “cloud” as a place, it’s important to remember that virtual networks have to stem from somewhere real. As you evaluate cloud providers, keep that, and the appropriate factors above, in mind.