United States two years ahead of Europe in cloud adoption

May 31, 2012

Despite strong interest in the cloud all across the continent, strict European data protection regulations have limited its overall adoption, according to Gartner Research. Issues surrounding privacy, diversity and a troubled economy have all combined to put Europe on a path that stands two years behind the United States.

While the United States has taken to a "Cloud First" initiative under the Obama administration, the European Union has been reinforcing a strict data protection plan, with individual nation states adopting their own laws. Adoption has been slowed by these laws both because of basic concerns about data security in the cloud as well as EU regulations that require all data to not leave the economic area.

Because of the liquid nature of data in the cloud, it is hard for a European company to be assured that its data stays on EU-based servers.

A clash of acts
The Data Protection Directive in the European Union - which dates back to 1995 - is not quite in harmony with the more recent U.S. Patriot Act, according to the Financial Times. With many cloud providers around the world based out of the United States, this can become an issue for businesses and lawmakers from both regions.

Under the Patriot Act, the government may request information from providers without the consent of end customers. Even if the data is housed on a cloud server somewhere in the European Union, if the provider is a U.S. company, it is compelled to turn over the data. However, the EU law provides rights of protection to individuals, even if the data leaves the servers.

This conundrum has stopped at least a handful of companies from using a U.S.-based provider, according to the Financial Times. With so much of the cloud industry based stateside, this creates a laggard environment across the European continent, even as the United States and emerging markets continue to progress.

Adoption issues
Data regulations aren't the only holdup for the entire continent. With Europe still a bright canvas of multiculturalism, even as the European Union seeks to unite economic and political aims, business practices may vary in different countries. Business diversity slows a broad adoption of cloud infrastructure across national borders, as all those issues must work in concert, according to Gartner. This also comes as an issue as individual countries - on top of the time taken by the EU legislative body itself - require time to tailor region-wide directive to their needs.

An overarching issue that Gartnet paints as a stumbling block to the adoption has been the crisis surrounding the Euro. While most of the world has slowly begun to climb out of recession, the European Union remains entrenched. This, in turn, has helped put major investments like cloud computing on indefinite hold.

-McAfee Cloud Security