Do you know the physical location of your data?
“Where is your data stored?” is not asked often enough. An interesting topic, brought up by an owner of a Dutch cloud company during a radio program.
It surprised me. As a Data Professional who has lost count of the number of times I have asked this question. Why is this still not a common concern?
When I ask the question, the reactions vary. Often times the answer is a simple “I don’t know” When I do find the right specialist to tell me these details, the conversation goes something like this:
“Where is the data stored?”
“In the cloud.”
“Yes, but where are those servers located?”
“Yes, what country in Europe?”
“In The Netherlands. “
“Yes, do you know in which city?”
“Yes, in Amsterdam.”
The tedious process goes to show that it’s a question that is not asked often enough. But it matters.
It’s interesting, it seems we don’t often enough realise that although data is digital, it always has a physical aspect to it. Much like us, the data has to live somewhere. In turn, cyber security is not just about the digital security of who can access your data, but also the physical one. What physical measures are in place to ensure that no one breaches your data centres? Do you know who can access the building where your data lives? However, security is but one concern when it comes to the physical location of data.
Laws and regulations mandate where data may be stored and processed. And processing includes ‘viewing’ data. GDPR, for instance, requires that data is stored in Europe. That means that some international cloud providers are automatically a non-option, when they don’t have data centres in Europe. If your data centres are located in a different country, you’re automatically dealing with cross-country transfers. Be vocal about this towards your cloud provider. If you don’t decide where your data is physically stored, they will. Then it’s out of your control. And most likely not in line with legal requirements.
Did you know that there are countries that demand their data is stored and processed locally only?
Location may also influence the reliability of you data. If your data centres are located in an area where power outages are common, you will be dealing with limited availability. Or if it is a politically unstable region, your data centre may be put out of the running all together. Next to that, the further away the physical location, the higher the risk for limited connectivity. Both the quality of the network and the distance can greatly impact connectivity. All these aspects can influence your ability to deliver the data-driven digital products and services your customers are paying for. In other words, thinking about the location of your data is business critical.
So my takeaway for you, start asking the question: do you know where your data is stored?