February 22, 2012 – A gulf of differences regarding cloud computing policy, infrastructure and data security separates the top nations from others providing cloud technology. Such policies, issues and communications are hindering fluid global deployment and preventing cloud computing from reaching its full economic potential, a new report states.

The Business Software Alliance on Wednesday released its “BSA Global Cloud Scorecard,” an assessment of cloud potential for the 24 nations that represent 80 percent of the global information and communications technology. The BSA report marked and ranked national preparedness and integration into a shared global marketplace under seven categories: data privacy, cybersecurity, cybercrime, intellectual property, technological interoperability, and legal harmonization, free trade and IT infrastructure.

As cloud services operate across boundaries, the BSA noted that restrictive or absent cloud policies create business and innovation barriers that “will slow the evolution of cloud computing.” Those nations best suited for cloud deployments and market growth held regulations and enforcement in place for data moving across borders, with an openness to interoperability and few, if any, geographic data outsourcing restrictions, the BSA reported. To that end, the U.S. and Japan ranked high in the BSA report based on work with standards organizations and an acceptance of consumer and provider input on cloud and data portability regulations.

However, as the cloud regulation landscape develops, the BSA found that possible changes in certain laws hold promise and peril for differing nations. The BSA noted positive strides on behalf of Mexico and India for revised privacy laws more in line with industry standards. However, existing cloud-friendly regulation already in place in Germany and France, which both rank in the BSA’s top five, could still be impacted by slower cloud growth from overarching European Union data protection regulation under review. And Russia’s reluctance to join or adhere to intellectual property standards exposes cloud data in and from that nation to higher levels of risk than its economic counterparts.

In a press release on the report, BSA President and CEO Robert Holleyman noted that the most benefit from the cloud can be found with scale on a global level, which requires laws and standards that enable data to “flow easily across borders.” While Holleyman said a global cloud market doesn’t require identical laws, he said compatible and enforced privacy and security rules make great strides toward good cloud data stewardship and business growth.

“Right now, too many countries have too many different rules standing in the way of the kind of trade in digital services we really need,” said Holleyman.

Japan ranked as the most prepared country due to its leadership in developing cloud standards, privacy protections that don’t inhibit commerce and standing criminal protections.

Ranking fourth, the U.S. received high marks for legislation with intellectual property and support for industry-led harmonization and standardization of cloud regulation. But there were gaps and inconsistencies registered by the BSA in the range of policy and legislation by the U.S. when it came to data privacy in the cloud and dealing with security. BSA member organizations and the U.S. Department of Commerce have urged Congress in recent years to revise data security measures and the decades-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act to better reflect the worldwide spread of cloud computing, data centers and outsourcing.

Economic interests were not the sole defining factor, particularly with problems in two quickly developing nations. The BSA found that China (21st) is limited by “poor” enforcement of property rights and holds policies that rule against procurement by outside tech companies. BSA also noted a lack of privacy and security legislation in Brazil (last place).

The goal of the BSA’s 66 question scorecard is to “help policymakers conduct a constructive self-evaluation, and determine the next steps that need to be taken to help advance the growth of global cloud computing,” according to the report. Members of the software alliance include Microsoft, Adobe, CA, Apple, Sybase and Symantec.

Click here to download the 24-page BSA report.