Canadian businesses shouldn’t have any immediate worry about the latest Prism revelations broken by the Washington Post and The Guardian. Business is not the stated target and the FBI and NSA are fairly well-removed from the business world.
However, between the Patriot Act and now Prism, the US government is getting more and more comfortable with the idea of secretly snooping on any data they can and that should be a long-term concern for businesses around the world.
In case you missed all of the coverage, Prism is a program that gives the NSA and FBI secret access to all data from Google, Facebook, Apple and a whole host of other US Internet giants.
The program is supposedly restricted to non-US citizens, which shouldn’t be of any comfort to the majority of Techvibes readers, but even its safeguards are laughably, or maybe cryably, thin.
Like it or not, the future of business online is in the cloud. And right now, that means putting your data on US soil or under control of US companies. That means it is in the grasp of US authorities.
Any companies with data in the cloud should already be encrypting that data. And if they are not, now they have another good reason to do so.
Moving data on-premise really isn’t necessary, but companies around the world are going to question their cloud deployments and some are going to spend millions to protect their data and get it out of the US.
And that is where the opportunity lies.
Canadian Internet companies have lagged behind their US counterparts in investing in real cloud infrastructure in Canada with multiple regions and availability zones.
Part of that is due to the fact that no one has the appetite for risk to test the demand for a Canadian cloud product. And part of that is due to the fact that Canadian businesses tend to be more conservative than their US counterparts.
Many of the businesses moving their data out of the United States are going to prefer keeping at least some of that data located in close proximity to the US market so that US customers can access it with minimal latency.
Canada is the most obvious choice for cloud infrastructure located near the US but not in it.
Our cooler climate helps reduce the substantial data center cooling costs. And relatively abundant renewable energy would also appeal to a company looking to establish enough data centers to form a true cloud.
A proactive Federal government, or possibly a collection of First Nations governments, with strong laws protecting private and foreign data could create an environment where a Canadian solution could work.
Ireland has been a leader in this respect with their Safe Harbour laws that ensure that owners of data will be informed of any access by US authorities, but they don’t have the advantage of geographical proximity to the US.
With the US government seemingly intent on eroding the trust in US Internet companies, and very limited public cloud alternatives, the global demand for such a product could create the scale needed to justify the risk investment in this market.