Microsoft Canada VP Chris Berry at the Microsoft Enterprise Show in Toronto

Published: October 28th, 2016

TORONTO – Canadian executives are slow on the draw when it comes to cloud technology, according to a Microsoft Canada survey of over 700 Canadian business leaders released on Friday.

“The cloud is absolutely a generation shift, and every organization in the next few years will have to address that,” said Chris Barry, vice president of Microsoft Canada’s enterprise and partner group, as he opened the event. Despite the growing awareness of this cloud-based future, executives report that they still aren’t prepared.

Implementing a cloud strategy is in the top five business objectives of 2017 for 71 per cent of Canadian business leaders, according to the Northstar survey sponsored by Microsoft. More than eight in 10 believe that cloud solutions will play an important role in that strategy, 58 per cent list security as the top concern when migrating to the cloud, followed by privacy at 47 per cent. Only one out of five executives report that they feel they are prepared in the case of a data hack or leak.

“People seem to have this naive view of the cloud as a simple replacement for on-premise, and that it simply is a new place to store data, but it’s a new step. It changes business because you can do new things that are only possible because of the cloud,” said Takeshi Numoto, CVP of Microsoft cloud and enterprise. “At the macro level, [Microsoft] is essentially building trust with the technology, and showing our partners the possibilities of the cloud.”

“The security Microsoft can provide is much better than anything we could build now. I can’t build what they describe, and if I could, it might take me five years to get something like that, when I can just use Azure to maintain that sophistication, and use the time and money saved towards business processes,” said Doug Schneider, senior vice president and global CTO at Manulife Financial.

Microsoft has invested $1 billion in security research and development yearly, and has become the first major cloud service provider to sign the international code of practice for cloud privacy, ISO 27018. Each Microsoft service is independently verified to meet legal and compliance requirements.

“Security is not a bolt-on. We don’t necessarily sell security as a separate product. It’s built into Windows, it’s built into Office 365, it’s built into Azure and all our products,” said Numoto.

Data residency plays a major role in the uncertainty of adopting a cloud-based solution, with 85 per cent of Canadian business leaders reporting that they want their data to remain in Canada. Up until only three to four months ago, the data centre options in Canada have been bleak. Now, with Microsoft opening two data centres in Toronto and Quebec City, and competitors like IBM doing the same, data residency is becoming more of an excuse than a legitimate reason.

“We have specific customers who say that they want their data to reside in Canada. As we move forward, this is going to be less about security, and more of a speed issue,” said Schneider. “The data residency issue is used as an excuse to not move into the cloud. IT roles that haven’t been disrupted in over a decade are changing. The cloud is eliminating thousands of jobs because IT professionals aren’t trained to innovate with the cloud. This is why we have been investing in people and retraining in order to meet those changes.”

Canadian businesses may be off the beaten path in regards to cloud development, but that will change as business leaders continue to learn about the cloud and the automatic security involved with it. Especially as data centres continue to open in Canada, eliminating concerns such as data residency.