When you put a file “in the cloud”, it is usually only available over the internet, without taking up space on your device’s memory, whether mobile or computer. But where is this cloud? Where does a file stored there go?
In technology, the definition of “cloud” may seem obscure, but basically it is a term used to describe a global network of servers.
The cloud is not a physical entity, but a vast network of remote servers around the globe that are connected and operate as a single ecosystem.
Nor, contrary to what the name suggests, does this cloud not hover in the sky above our heads.
Amazon alone, for example, has more than 2 million servers around the world, according to The Conversation.
Where is the cloud?
The country that can really take the crown of “owner of the cloud” is Ireland. Many companies have their servers there. At the time of setting up the companies, the location had been chosen for a number of factors, such as cheap land and lower taxes.
To give you an idea, until last year, big tech companies installed in Ireland could pay taxes at least 11% cheaper than if they were in countries like England, Germany and France. In some, the difference reached more than 20% in the amount of taxes charged.
With the proposed minimum global tax of 15%, this configuration may change in the coming years.
Still in the European Union, another country that stands out is Germany. The data protection regulations in force in the country oblige companies to keep the information of German citizens on national territory.
In the Americas, the US is a strong name for being the birthplace of leading technology companies and home to the main innovations in the sector. Brazil also has a considerable number of servers and cloud datacenters, serving as a hub for Latin America.
In Asia, Japan stands out for reasons similar to the US. Singapore also has considerable weight in the sector as it offers competitive taxation for companies. Another highlight is China, which has a very strong presence of servers and datacenters from companies in the country, such as Alibaba and Huawei.
In the coming years, some countries that should show growth in this sector are Argentina and Chile, for Latin America; Turkey and Greece, for the European Union and the Middle East; and South Africa, for the African continent.
Where are my files?
The files of Brazilian users of Office 365, the package of cloud applications from Microsoft (such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint) are distributed between the USA, Chile and, since 2014, Brazil itself.
“Brazil is among the 44 regions where more than 100 Microsoft datacenters are distributed — it is the first in Latin America and the Southern Hemisphere. It is worth mentioning that, at the time we opened our datacenter in Brazil, we increased from 10 to 30 times the speed of services for Brazilian customers”, according to the company.
The Google Cloud Platform (GCP) servers, where your Google Drive, Gmail, Google Photos and Google Docs files are located, are now located in the USA, Canada, Brazil, England, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, India, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan and Australia.
When Google opened servers in São Paulo in 2017, the response time (the difference between you clicking something on your device and the action being taken) for users dropped by between 80% and 95%. This is an important point in having servers close to whoever accesses the data.
Another giant in the sector is Amazon, with its subsidiary Amazon Web Services, which cloud storages files from thousands of companies around the world, including those that make many of the apps you use on your phone — from WhatsApp to Netflix. .
“AWS works with the concept of Regions, currently having 18 in the world. Each region has at least three Availability Zones, and each Availability Zone has at least one datacenter”, says the company. “In Latin America, we have the São Paulo region, which is located in Brazil.”
What attracts the cloud
Various factors can attract servers and clients to a certain country or another. For those looking, money can speak louder. Often, for a company, it is better to hire a service in the US because the price is lower, even when paying in dollars.
For those who are going to build their own server, without using another company’s cloud, several other elements come into the account.
Questions regarding the maintenance costs of large servers, the existing regulatory regime in the country (in terms of data protection and taxation) and even the climate (countries with milder temperatures are preferable) may weigh in the decision.
Ronaldo Salvador, computer engineer and network analyst, highlights the issue of energy as a limiting factor in Brazilian territory. “Here, it is not possible to contract energy from two suppliers, which means that Brazilian datacenters are limited to the so-called Tier III.”
“It is not to say that they are bad, as many have their generators to guarantee supply in the event of a power failure, but we cannot offer the resilience conditions for a grade IV or higher, as is the case out there.”
The climate issue is important, as it reduces the costs of cooling servers – the hotter a country, the more difficult and expensive this process becomes. It is so important that in 2015 Microsoft put a steel tube with servers to work on the sea floor, off the coast of California. Thus, the low temperatures dispensed with the use of cooling systems.
The second leg of this project took place in June 2018, with the installation of a new subsea datacenter off the coast of Scotland. In addition to all these elements, latency plays a key role in choice.
But for experts, the main issue is really speed. Latency time is increasingly important. If you think about internet of things (IoT), like connected lamps and refrigerators, for example, these are applications that don’t need a lot of bandwidth, as they transmit little data, but they need low latency time, as they require fast responses.
Therefore, you need to choose a location that offers the lowest possible latency.
privacy and security
If the servers with the information are not in the country of the owner of the information, what about privacy and data security issues?
In general, the legislation of the country in which the data is located applies to data stored in the cloud. But this rule does not prevent or resolve possible conflicts of a transnational nature, according to experts.
One initiative that seeks to explain how each company deals with these privacy issues is the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) “Who Has Your Back” page, which evaluates various aspects of cloud storage services.
In Brazil, the General Data Protection Law (LGPD), which came into force in 2020, requires companies operating here to store Brazilian data on local servers, or in countries with legislation similar to ours.