Microsoft is opening two new data centers north of the border in Canada as part of its growing network of data centers outside of the US. It plans to launch new data centers in Toronto, ON and Quebec City, QC in 2016. The new facilities will deliver Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online services. According to Microsoft’s announcement, the local data centers will “address data residency considerations” for its customers.
Opening the new centers “opens up significant new cloud-based possibilities for organizations who must adhere to strict data storage compliance codes,” it adds.
Privacy and US surveillance concerns have partly driven more businesses to act on locating data centers internationally. Reducing latency is another key motivator. Microsoft and others are leveraging these concerns to make their “in-country” services much more attractive, says Keith Groom, director of Microsoft solutions at Softchoice, Canada’s largest Microsoft licensing and Office 365 provider.
According to The Globe and Mail, the new data centers will “host sensitive government data, including records about citizens or government programs,” with Microsoft having been in talks with the Canadian government for several years. “There’s no technical reason to do it, this is for the government,” said Janet Ms. Kennedy, president of Microsoft Canada.
One area that this might be of particular interest to the government is tax filings, where this sensitive data can be stored on Canadian soil without ever moving to another country’s server and potentially putting the data at risk.
“Microsoft’s move into Canada and its exploration of the European market is a clear sign of Microsoft trying to get closer to its customers and remove the barriers associated with storing data far from home,” says Groom.
Microsoft’s Canada announcement is just the latest in a string of moves by US tech companies, big and small, to move into new countries with their data centers, particularly in Europe.
Recently, Microsoft applied for planning permission in Dublin, Ireland to build its second data center there while its first Irish data center is currently embroiled in legal wrangling with the US over requested emails on an Irish server. Both Apple and Facebook are planning data centers in the country as well and Equinix recently acquired UK-based data center operator Telecity.
Despite moving into new countries with their services and away from US laws, companies like Microsoft will still have local laws to contend with. In Canada, one particular concern is the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, or PIPEDA. “The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act applies to every public or private organization that collects, uses or discloses personal information for commercial activities,” explains Groom. “So once an organization collects data, that the organization is now fully accountable and responsible for the protection of said data.”
That will, and has played, a huge part in which cloud provider businesses and organizations choose.
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