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Brexit and cloud technologies: What impact does it have on business?


Whatever date we leave the EU, our customers need to know they can reliably and securely access the information we hold

As this article is written, the date on which the UK will leave the European Union is still uncertain. What seems (relatively) certain is that the UK will leave the EU at some stage between the end of March 2019 and December 2020.

When we do leave the EU, the UK will have “third-country” status with the EU. This will change how we can work with EU member states. It will also have obvious repercussions for UK businesses and organisations, two-thirds of which believe Brexit will have an impact upon them, according to a YouGov survey.

This rapidly changing political landscape has limited the ability of UK companies to plan for the future. So, despite much encouragement from business leaders and government, at the end of 2018, 69 percent of employees with less than 10 employees admitted in a British Chambers of Commerce survey that they had not done a risk assessment of the impact of Brexit on their business.

Pre-Brexit impact

So, even before it has happened, Brexit has already had a significant economic and commercial impact, with 45 percent of UK businesses admitting that it’s damaged their confidence. This, in turn, has had a profound knock-on effect when it comes to making investment decisions.

According to the Bank of England, business investment is just 2 per cent higher than it was at the time of the Brexit vote and actually 0.2 per cent lower than it was a year ago. This is very much less than the 13 per cent that had originally been forecast over a two-year period.

The impact of Brexit on data protection

One of the central pillars of the EU, of course, is the free flow between member states not just of people and finance, but also data.

Currently, personal information flows unrestricted between the UK and Europe because we are an EU member state. And, if parliament had approved Teresa May’s proposed EU withdrawal agreement, nothing much would have changed before 2020, giving time for other arrangements to be put in place for the long-term.

However if that deal is finally rejected, there is no clarity about what might happen next. If there is a no deal, then we immediately step outside the rules and regulations of the EU. This can have all kinds of implications for the many companies that process and transfer data across borders.

While this might not in practice affect a small hotel in Northumberland taking a telephone booking from someone in France, the impact of Brexit on technology companies -- or indeed any business using a cloud service that stores or processes data outside the UK -- could be significant.

According to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), this might mean, for example, that personal data transferred out of the UK to European Economic Area (EEA) countries might be stopped from flowing in temporarily until additional measures are established to make that data flow compliant with EU laws. The ICO has issued helpful FAQs to guide them in making changes to how they process personal data of individuals in the EU.

The ‘Brexit impact’ on technology companies

Given that our customers rely on us to protect and manage the data they give us, for us as a technology company, maintaining that free flow of information is absolutely essential. Whatever date we leave the EU, our customers need to know they can reliably and securely access the information we hold to ensure they can continue to do business as smoothly as possible.

To mitigate the impact of any potential fallout from a no deal outcome, some time back Swiftpage began working with EU lawyers to make sure that as a company we were complying with all relevant legislation, so that we could be confident we'd done our very best to avoid the negative impact of Brexit on data protection.

Our preparations began several months ago following the advice from the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), which recommended that to become Brexit ready, businesses with Europe-based operations should look at how and where they process data.

Having carried out a review, we made changes to our cloud hosting services to help ensure we were compliant after Brexit.

New data centre set up

For our Act! Premium Cloud deployments, we use Google’s Cloud infrastructure. This now has five data centres in mainland Europe, but when we launched Act! Premium Cloud, there was only one. That was in Belgium and was, therefore, the one we used to support all our UK and EU-based customers.

Because it is a location with a proven track record of reliability and performance, it made sense for us to retain it as the centre for our European infrastructure and to set up an alternative data centre in London for our UK customers. We have of course separate server infrastructures in the US and Australia to support our customers there.

By removing the need for data transmission between the UK and the EU, we have helped to ensure we are prepared for any future changes to either UK or EU regulations. And, if we hadn’t made the decision to move our data centres, we may not have been able to meet any new post-Brexit data protection regulations covering the transfer, storage or processing of data.

Not only that, but just as importantly, we will be meeting our own customers’ expectations when it comes to ensuring we have done everything possible to look after and make available their business-critical information.

The move of our Act! Premium Cloud deployments from Belgium to London completed mid-March, in good time to meet the Brexit deadline – and as promised, there was no unexpected downtime in our Act! Premium Cloud service.

Data protection after Brexit

One of the key pieces of pre-Brexit data privacy legislation affecting us, of course, is GDPR. So, as long as we abide by its stipulations, we will be operating to the same data regulations as businesses in Europe. Obviously, this is of immense help in terms of ensuring we remain compliant with EU law and so can still operate seamlessly within Europe.

If Britain were to rescind, repeal or step out of the GDPR regulations in future, that would have consequences that we would have to deal with. There seems to be no evidence that will be the case, as the UK government has already indicated it understands the importance of the free flow of information between the EU and the UK, and it has stated its intention to take steps to facilitate the flow of personal data to the EU.

Obviously, we will have to take the lead from the UK Information Commissioner’s Office and European Data Protection Board, going forward. And, if there are changes to data protection regulations that impact how customers use the platform, we will ensure this is managed and clearly communicated.

However, right now, we can assure all our UK customers that Swiftpage is Brexit ready.

By Lindsay Boullin, VP, General Manager of Swiftpage.

Lindsay joined Swiftpage in 2013 with the acquisition from Sage, when the leadership team asked him to jump ship and run the new office in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK. Lindsay is responsible for running Swiftpage's sales and marketing outside of the Americas and Oceania, as well as the teams based at the lovely office in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK. Prior to Swiftpage he spent 10 years at Sage Software in the UK, first in the in house legal team and then running a product management team.

PR Contact:
Clara Fernandez