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DLA Piper Advises on Launch of EC Cloud Computing Guidelines

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DLA Piper has announced that it played a key role in the launch of guidelines issued by the European Commission intended to help businesses save money and get the most out of cloud computing services.

According to the firm, "the guidelines aim to ensure contracts between professional cloud users and cloud providers are written plainly, boosting confidence in the digital market," and "are widely recognized as the first step towards standardized building blocks for Service Level Agreements (SLAs) terminology and metrics." An SLA is a part of a service contract that defines the technical and legal aspects of the service offered.

The guidelines were developed as part of the Commission's European Cloud Strategy to increase trust in these services, and were shaped by a Cloud Select Industry Group (C-SIG) which included DLA Piper lawyers Patrick van Eecke, Mark O'Conor and Antoon Dierick. Other major cloud providers including Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Oracle and IBM were also part of the C-SIG.

It is hoped that this will inspire standardization of SLAs at an international level. Internet service providers commonly include SLAs in contracts with customers to define the levels of service being sold, and they form an important component of the contractual relationship between a customer and a cloud provider. Given the global nature of the cloud, cloud contracts often span different jurisdictions, with varying applicable legal requirements, in particular with respect to the protection of personal data hosted in the cloud.

According to Patrick van Eecke, "the lack of a common contracting template has been a real stumbling block to the roll-out of cloud computing in Europe. For this reason, guidance on developing a standardized Service Level Agreement that can be adopted by both providers and users is hugely welcome. We were pleased to play a significant role in the development of the guidance, and look forward to continuing the industry-wide dialogue to remove the barriers to the adoption of cloud computing."

European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes said: "This is the first time cloud suppliers have agreed on common guidelines for service level agreements. I think small businesses in particular will benefit from having these guidelines at hand when searching for cloud services.” And Vice-President Viviane Reding added: "The new guidelines will help generate trust in innovative computing solutions and help EU citizens save money. More trust means more revenue for companies in Europe's digital single market. This is the same spirit as the EU data protection reform which aims at boosting trust. A competitive digital single market needs high standards of data protection. EU consumers and small firms want safe and fair contract terms. Today's new guidelines are a step in the right direction."