Why sovereignty is the crowning feature for data centres
The word ‘sovereign’ has been in our collective vocabularies of late, with the coverage of King Charles III’s coronation. We all read extensively about how the late Queen was sovereign for 70 years; by that, many people came to understand that sovereign refers to a person exercising supreme authority. But what does it mean when it comes to data centres?
What is data sovereignty?
Typically, data centres deal with two key concepts; data residency and data sovereignty. Data residency refers to the physical location, while data sovereignty refers to the rules and laws under which the data is subject, as a result of its physical location. Of these two, the governance over the processing of the data is far more important than location. It’s not just where it’s stored, it’s how it’s governed that matters.
For example, what is considered acceptable in data handling in Europe, is not the same as in the US. Businesses that handle international data must ensure their data privacy isn’t compromised, especially when it comes to sharing cross-border data. Understanding, adopting and complying with the local data laws and regulations can be a make or break for a business when operating in a new territory. Data truly protected by sovereign data centre operations must be located onshore under a national jurisdiction that protects that data from another claim, for example, the government of the country in which the company is ultimately domiciled.
Data sovereignty and Certified Strategic data centres.
The Australian Government’s Hosting Certification Framework refers to sovereignty as “the ability of the government to specify and maintain stringent ownership and control conditions” (1). According to this framework, a Certified Strategic Hosting Provider is a data centre that provides the highest level of sovereignty and assurance to the Australian Government.
Choosing a sovereign data centre that has been Certified Strategic by the Australian Government provides businesses with the confidence that their data is completely governed by Australian laws and is protected against any foreign interference. The stringent requirements to achieve Certified Strategic status mean that everything from the land the data centre sits on, to the data centres’ wider supply chain is Australian-controlled.
This is particularly important for businesses that wish to work with the Australian Government. Any company that wishes to do business with the Australian Government are required by law to store their data in Certified Strategic data centres.
These rigorous frameworks and regulations around sovereignty can make it tricky for international businesses when entering the Australian market. Choosing a trusted Certified Strategic data centre partner can help these businesses navigate Australia’s complex regulatory landscape.
How demonstrated data sovereignty expertise can help government and businesses.
Macquarie Data Centres is a Certified Strategic data centre provider that is a long-standing partner of the Australian government. In fact, 42% of all Federal Government Agencies trust Macquarie Data Centres with their data. Selected for their unrivalled security and excellence in operational efficiency, they have developed an incomparable understanding of the data sovereignty framework.
As one of the first Certified Strategic Data centres in Australia, Macquarie Data Centres is able to advise its clients with deep domain expertise from things such as policy, operational considerations & even wider business implications. Challenges can range from the more obvious operational topics, such as how to maintain compliance with local laws, to mitigating fundamental business risks such as avoiding unauthorised access from overseas staff or having data integrity put at risk by sudden changes to overseas laws.
Businesses want to be confident that their data will be handled in a way that minimises risk while maximising business outcomes. Ultimately, any business wants its data centre provider to be experts at navigating data risks, governance and compliance.
To be an expert in a particular domain or sector comes about as a result of skill and experience. As the late Queen Elizabeth famously said: “With age does come experience and that can be a virtue if it is sensibly used.”
- The Whole of Government Hosting Strategy Hosting Certification Framework. Australian Government Digital Transformation Agency. March 2021 (Accessed May 23)