Highly secure applications for collaboration

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Many office applications today run on flexible cloud environments. [dotshock/Shutterstock]

The collaborative world of work requires networking, dynamism and flexibility. The highly secure Microsoft Cloud Deutschland meets all these requirements, while data custodian T-Systems protects the system against attacks with a model that is unrivalled throughout Europe, writes T-Systems.

T-Systems is a German company that operates information and communication technology (ICT) services. 

Highly secure cloud applications underpin many kinds of state-of-the-art business applications, such as collaboration tools. Thanks to these applications, work practices and communications channels are possible that were still inconceivable just a few years ago. These entail simple, secure group-wide communication or the sharing of data and documents with colleagues and partners around the globe.

Within this context, state-of-the-art collaboration concepts use the multicloud as a flexible environment in which all necessary applications are operated in their own data centre, in the private or in the public cloud thanks to well thought-out orchestration.

The right concept and comprehensive rights and role management result in an agile, secure working environment for sharing information and communication within the company and beyond. Hybrid collaboration makes efficient collaboration possible.

Most enterprises tend to focus on Exchange Online and the associated functions such as e-mail, contacts and calendar when it comes to collaboration. Yet for some time, Microsoft has been supplementing its Office application with new collaboration tools. So workgroups can organize their collaboration with the “Planner” and communicate with each other via short channels using “Teams.”

Furthermore, the application also allows digital project spaces to be defined via the group function. Office 365 is therefore the tool of choice for many companies looking to create a sound foundation for collaboration between teams and enterprise units.

Secure solutions for the hybrid cloud

Despite these numerous options, some enterprises still raise concerns regarding security and compliance of cloud offerings. The particular emphasis on security is definitely a specific feature of the German economy.

German engineering is traditionally seen as sophisticated and secure – in IT, too. That is why T-Systems has got in touch with Microsoft to offer its customers in Germany a highly secure cloud solution. T-Systems has been cooperating with Microsoft as a partner and data custodian since February 2017.

A short formula perfectly encapsulates this new legal construct in the European cloud market: Microsoft supports customers but has no access to their documents and user data.

Customers themselves retain responsibility for the control and decision-making powers over the data. As data custodian, T-Systems monitors and checks each physical and technical access to the customer data, with the exception of the customer itself accessing data.

Using in-house certified employees, T-Systems controls and monitors the data centres for the “Microsoft Cloud Deutschland,” which includes typical Microsoft products such as Azure, Office 365 or Dynamics 365.

According to the model, Microsoft retains control of the customers’ master data, such as address or e-mail addresses. The documents and other usage data are stored exclusively in German data centres. 

What makes the solution so special is that the cloud services are physically and logically separated from other variants of the same applications, such as Microsoft’s existing Office portfolio. This way, customers can now also use T-Systems’ highly secure offering and transfer the trusteeship for access to their data to Deutsche Telekom’s business customer arm.

In practice, the setup means T-Systems has sole control of access to the data centres and the operating units. Furthermore, T-Systems also monitors the remote accesses to the customers’ data, such as during system maintenance. As a result, Microsoft requires the customer’s consent before it can access data centres or the operating units, or use network connections to access its customers’ data remotely.

The data is subject to German law

T-Systems normally performs all necessary tasks for smooth operation of the cloud solutions via direct or remote accesses. If this proves impossible at some stage under exceptional circumstances requiring wide-ranging technical expertise, Microsoft can, with T-Systems’ prior consent, open a short remote access monitored by T-Systems and rectify any faults in the software process.

Microsoft has no permanent access, nor any permanent right to obtain access. Microsoft cannot independently access the servers on which the customer data is located.

These and a series of other measures ensure that only T-Systems’ employees manage the servers or can enter the data centre buildings. Microsoft employees can only do this in exceptional circumstances and under the supervision of T-Systems’ employees.

A provision in the customers’ contract terms and conditions also prevents any access queries on the customer data which do not adhere to the rules of the contract. The only exception is where the customer provides consent. Inquiries from government agencies are then also only fulfilled if permitted under German law. Deutsche Telekom legal experts also verify all inquiries.

This solution enables all kinds of business applications and collaboration tools to be implemented on a very high-security level. Communication applications such as Skype for Business and a wide range of other applications such as SharePoint or Exchange can no longer be run just in their own data centre or the private cloud, but now also make their way into the German public cloud.

The upshot is a genuine multicloud environment which takes flexibility to a wholly new level and which is crucial for many users today as they look to remain competitive and agile.

T-Systems assumes end-to-end responsibility above and beyond Office 365 for the entire hybrid-collaboration ecosystem. With the aid of existing or customized interfaces (APIs), other applications – including in-house developments – can also be integrated into the new system landscape. Hence the multicloud environment offers flexibility, scalability and security for the individual needs of each business.

In short, T-Systems’ role as data custodian is unrivalled at present anywhere in Europe. Customers’ documents and usage data from this cloud service are subject solely to German law and are only stored and further processed in Germany.

With T-Systems as data custodian, enterprises or organizations ensure that Microsoft cannot access their data and documents in the public cloud, while still enjoying the full flexibility of a multicloud environment.