Cloud computing is transforming a great swathe of contemporary life. From work to leisure, learning and communication, it is enabling people and organizations to function at optimal levels, for much less than it cost just a couple of decades ago. Instances that come to mind include cloud storage platforms, enterprise management systems, and even video streaming services.
But the cloud delivers its benefits so well that its users barely think about the infrastructure that makes it possible. They particularly do not know where the data they upload to it (and download from it) is stored. This is as true for individuals as it is for businesses. All they are aware of are the visual and auditory content that they view and listen to on their computers and smartphones.
In fact, a lot of this activity is enabled by physical structures and connections that may span thousands of kilometers. Unknown to the people and organizations that use cloud computing, the content—or data –they engage with on cloud-based applications are stored in data centers located in far-off countries. When people upload and download content on their devices, they are actually sending and receiving data to and from storage locations, all linked by a network of physical exchange points and (sometimes) undersea cables that run over vast regions.
Many Nigerian businesses and some public sector agencies have their data stored in data centers located outside of the country. They often do not know this. That’s because they host their data with foreign cloud service providers, who in turn keep their client’s data in physical stations in their country. Sometimes they even hold it in a data center located in a third country.
This raises all sorts of security concerns. Organizations whose data are hosted in other countries do not have immediate access to the physical spaces in which they are kept. As a result, they are at the mercy of the data residency laws of the countries that host their data. If any of those countries determine that they (the organization) have violated their laws, the country could deny them access to their data.
The fact that this could happen already places a large portion of Nigerian businesses in a vulnerable position. For context, a report from 2017 indicated that only 2.3% of .ng websites were hosted locally. The vast majority of Nigerian websites remain hosted on foreign soil, and are thus in danger of being targeted by authorities in their host countries for any number of reasons.
Proof that this is a genuine concern comes from recent national crises across the world, one of which is the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Data centers in Ukraine have struggled to sustain their operations; some have incurred increased energy costs. And several western internet service vendors have halted their services to Russia. If Nigerian organizations have their data held in a country under attack like Ukraine, there’s always a risk that their data could be lost in attacks that affect data centers. Also, if Nigeria is caught in a diplomatic spat with another country, that country may seize control of any data from Nigerian organizations that’s hosted within its borders.
Risks to foreign-hosted data could arise elsewhere along the global data transmission line. For example, the undersea cables that transmit data from stations elsewhere in the world to internet users in Nigeria may get damaged. An incident of this kind happened in 2020, when a submarine cable system was severed. This disrupted internet services to financial institutions, SMEs and larger corporations in Nigeria. Such disruptions could cost the affected businesses millions of naira in lost revenue, depending on how long they last.
Given the dangers that are associated with holding data abroad, it is only logical that Nigerian businesses move to host their data locally. In recent years, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has pushed for private and public sector organizations to have their data reside within the country’s borders.
This move comes with several benefits. It keeps data within the reach of the entities that generate and own it. And it maintains data in areas under the jurisdiction of Nigerian law, which Nigerian businesses and public sector agencies are more conversant with. Ultimately, this also saves the country a significant amount of foreign exchange, which would otherwise have been lost in payments to foreign cloud service providers.
There are a few cloud technology companies that offer data hosting and cloud services within Nigeria. However, they do not all deliver the same quality of service. Among the older, more established ones is Layer3’s Layer3Cloud, which hosts data for organizations in several industries. Their services are globally certified with PCIDSS, ISO27001 and ISO27017 certifications and run out of data centers in Lagos and Abuja, thus bringing the cloud much closer to Nigerian users. This also guarantees ultra-high-speed connectivity and exceptionally low latency, compared to what is available from foreign-based vendors.
Layer3Cloud provides virtual servers, disaster recovery, data backup and object storage services. It also helps businesses transit to the cloud and enables them to instantiate multiple cloud computing use cases to their advantage. Organizations seeking to move their data to local hosts can work with them to achieve this as well. The team at Layer3Cloud says that their services help their clients remain on the right side of data residency and other IT-related laws in Nigeria.
The need for Nigeria to host its content locally is greater than ever before. The threat that foreign agents may act against its data hosted within their territories is real. Businesses and government agencies can minimize this risk by keeping their data closer to home. Cloud infrastructure providers like Layer3Cloud are making this a much easier action to take.