The What, Why and How of Digital Sovereignty for Small Businesses

As organisations continue to move their businesses to the cloud for scalability, reduced costs and improved performance, the idea of ‘digital sovereignty’ is becoming increasingly important.

Put simply, digital sovereignty is about having control and autonomy over your company’s data, enabling it to be used, transferred and stored, safely and securely. However, it’s something which is made difficult by the evolving and, sometimes conflicting, regulatory landscape.

Many UK and European businesses depend on public cloud providers that are based in the US like AWS, Azure and Google, but this is where a potential data protection conflict can occur. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires EU organisations to adhere to stringent data protection rules (the UK has its own equivalent). However, under the US Cloud Act, US cloud providers are required to disclose data stored or processed outside of the country to US authorities, even without a court order. This includes both personal and company data – from commercial information to trade secrets or intellectual property. Therefore, UK and European businesses run the risk of violating either the US Cloud Act or the GDPR. And along with the ever-increasing risk of cyberattacks, this is causing companies to seek greater control and sovereignty over their digital assets.

Hybrid or Multi-Cloud

When choosing a cloud solution, small businesses should carefully consider the security, privacy and compliance features of the cloud platform, or even better, opt for a hybrid or multi-cloud strategy.

This may sound more complex, but a hybrid or multi-cloud structure means data will be spread across more than one service, allowing companies to run certain workloads in different locations. This means there is a much lower risk that your company will lose data or be unable to operate in the event of a cyberattack or server outage, as ‘not all of your eggs are in one basket’ so to say.

There are many factors that come into play when choosing between hybrid and multi, but both will help businesses achieve digital sovereignty. For companies that require the flexibility to outsource workloads and resources, access external services, and simultaneously host data locally, a hybrid cloud is likely to be the recommended choice. This scenario is particularly applicable when developing cloud-specific applications and services, utilising the public cloud for hosting while running or backing up business-critical data on on-premises servers in parallel.

Multi-cloud solutions are well-suited for companies that do not possess the resources or interest in establishing a locally hosted cloud infrastructure and seek maximum flexibility in accessing diverse external resources. Additionally, the multi-cloud model offers the advantage of utilising different cost models instead of being constrained by a limited subscription plan. Organisations that don’t intend to make substantial investments in local IT infrastructure and desire access to a wide array of services such as productivity applications, AI functionalities, virtual machines, and storage capacities from external providers, can benefit from adopting a multi-cloud approach.

Closing the human gap

Humans are known to be the weakest link when it comes to data security. Empowering your team with the skills and knowledge required to manage and secure digital assets effectively, is critical for asserting digital sovereignty. This should involve providing additional training and upskilling opportunities for existing employees, but it could also be worth hiring a dedicated data protection officer to oversee and harmonise your business’s digital sovereignty. Collaborating with trusted partners and leveraging their expertise can also help enhance cloud security and compliance.

Phishing is one of the most widespread cybersecurity issues, where the victim receives an email pretending to be from a legitimate entity such as a bank or supplier, often encouraging people to make a payment, hand over private information or open an attachment which contains malware. Hackers also use this technique to target cloud networks, so it’s critical that employees know how to spot and report phishing to avoid a data breach and retain digital sovereignty.

The Sovereign Cloud

Opting for a sovereign cloud solution will provide your business with increased transparency and control, improved security as well as compliance with European legislation. It ensures that all data is stored within the borders of their own country, preventing outside access. Along with all the benefits that the cloud brings in terms of flexibility and increased performance, a sovereign cloud means you can continue to future-proof your business and drive innovation.