Colleges and universities in the Netherlands reportedly store a disproportionate amount of data in major US public cloud environments. Nearly all Dutch universities use at least one US cloud environment.

According to researchers from the Delft University of Technology, the University of Vienna and the German Max Planck Institute, Dutch universities are more inclined to store their data with the big three American public cloud providers than universities in other European countries.

The storage concerns university data in the public cloud environments of AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure. The Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States make up the top three countries that favour US tech giants the most. The providers are much less popular in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

Most Dutch universities have connected at least one of their (data) systems to one of the three US public clouds. The use of public clouds by Dutch universities increased significantly between 2015 and 2021, the study notes. Usage and growth exceed other European countries.

Email servers and learning management systems

Dutch universities are also much more likely to use commercial e-mail servers than their counterparts in other European countries, the study found. A notable increase in the use of Microsoft’s e-mail services took place between 2018 and 2021.

This is likely due to the introduction of European GDPR legislation, according to the researchers. The government did not consider Google to be in line with the GDPR at the time, prompting a migration from Gmail to Microsoft’s e-mail services.

Furthermore, Dutch universities are avid users of learning management systems. These systems are found more often in the US, the UK and the Netherlands than in other European countries. The Netherlands also scores high in the use of centralized commercial video tools such as Zoom, Webex and Adobe Connect.

Warnings

The researchers warned of the growing use of US public cloud environments in the conclusions of their report. By relying on US servers, Dutch universities and other educational institutions put student privacy at risk, the researchers said.

Furthermore, the practice could compromise the integrity of education due to the dependence that Dutch universities have on major US cloud environments. According to the researchers, universities would do well to reinvest current spending in the development of proprietary data storage systems.

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