The European Commission has published standardised guidelines on cloud computing service level agreements which contain the essential terms for inclusion in such agreements entered into in the EU. Representatives from several technology giants, including Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft and SAP assisted in drawing up the guidelines, which are targeted at SMEs. Cloud computing has revolutionised the delivery of critical IT infrastructure to businesses, although the legal framework to govern such agreements has primarily evolved from existing laws. As such, laws across the EU may vary widely, which has led to calls for standardisation of these agreements.
The guidelines address key issues relating to performance, security, data management and data protection, all of which are key terms in any cloud service level agreement. This standardisation is aimed at making it easier for customers to get to grips with the services offered by providers, as well as comparing offerings from competing suppliers. This may, in turn, lead to increased adoption of cloud based solutions, as businesses are increasingly looking to cut costs by moving away from traditional IT system structures.
However, the guidelines are at present entirely voluntary and therefore rely on suppliers opting in of their own volition. There is a clear argument that standardisation will become necessary as cloud based agreements become the norm. However, many suppliers may wish to delay this insofar as this is possible, preferring instead to take advantage of a market where regulation is currently less restrictive and the balance of power arguably favouring the suppliers. One thing is clear, however, the European Commission has identified cloud computing as an area of significant growth and much of its future efforts will clearly be aimed at regulating this rapidly evolving marketplace.