EU-Service Level Agreements for Cloud Computing – a Legal Comment

Cloud computing allows individuals, businesses and the public sector to store their data and carry out data processing in remote data centers, saving on average 10-20%. Yet there is scope for improvement when it comes to the trust in these services.

The new EU-guidelines, developed by a Cloud Select Industry Group of the European Commission, were meant to provide reliable means and a good framework to create confidence in cloud computing services. But is it enough to provide a common set of areas that a cloud-SLA should cover and a common set of terms that can be used, as the guidelines do? Can this meet the individuals’ and business’ concerns when – or if – using cloud services?

In my opinion it does not, at least not sufficiently.

Having a closer view at the Guidelines from a legal perspective and thus concentrating on chapter 6 („Personal Data Protection Service Level Objectives Overview”), they appear to offer no tangible news. The Service Level Objectives (SLOs) that are described therein do give a detailed overview about the objectives that must be achieved by the provider of a cloud computing service. However, they lack description of useful examples and practical application. I would have imagined some kind of concrete proposals for the wording of a potential agreement. Any kind of routine concerning the procedure of creating a cloud computing service agreement would be a first step, to my mind, to increase the trust in cloud computing.

Since the guidelines fall short especially in this pragmatic aspect, their benefit in practice will be rather little.

As a suggestion for improvement one could follow the example of the ENISA „Procure Secure“-guidelines. They do focus on examples from “real life” and show what shall be comprised in a cloud computing contract. And they support cloud customers in setting up a clearly defined and practical monitoring framework, also by giving “worked examples” of common situations and best-practice solutions for each parameter suggested.


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