New work: Creating digital workspaces without compromising sovereignty

A sovereign workspace combines the benefits of modern workplace software with an independence from public cloud providers.
choose sovereign workspace for more control and code transparency

In many companies, there still persists a place-bound working culture. Storage is local, Microsoft Office is installed on local desktops. Communication relies on a bunch of tools, including email, video conferencing and instant messaging. This is what the fine people at Gartner Research would call a “Old Work Nucleaus”, and it tends to restrict employees.

In the “New Work Nucleus”, formerly single applications are replaced with integrated and automated cloud-based apps, often procured as Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS. Such a workspace ideally furnishes users with the best tools for their particular use case, no matter when and where they work.

There is however still a mighty limitation: The wholesale use of cloud applications can create an unhealthy reliance on US cloud providers. Saving files and information with Microsoft, Google or Amazon may sound like an easy and flexible move, especially if large amounts of data are involved. But being subject, as they are, to the US cloud act, US tech firms cannot provide European customers with data sovereignty. This legislation allows US government agencies to access data stored with US providers, even if the actual data center is located on foreign soil. This is incompatible with European data privacy regulation, namely the GDPR. Even if data security is contractually assured and data are encrypted, the unauthorized analysis of metadata cannot be ruled out.

There is a better way: Take the “New Work Nucleus” idea one step further. A sovereign workspace combines the benefits of independence from public cloud providers and the advantages of modern workplace software. The sovereign workspace is built on open-source software that stores data either on-premises or in servers hosted in a datacenter that’s carefully chosen and trustworthy.

The illustration shows the open-source solutions to common business software needs

There are a number of mature open-source solutions to address common business software needs

With such a setup, companies stay in control of their data, making compliance easy and safeguarding valuable digital assets. Today, there are open-source software solutions to every conceivable business need: file management, video conferencing, messaging, productivity and even CRM. The open ecosystem with its open interfaces brings flexibility and adaptibility unheard of in the closed source world. There, paying customer have to worry about vendor lock-ins that make switching painful and mighty barriers to market entry for dextrous startups that seek to disrupt existing near-monopolies. The open and by definition auditable source code of sovereign workspace services instead lets every user see for themselves that there are no backdoors that let third parties receive illicit data flows.

To go that extra mile and prioritize not only convenience but also digital sovereignty isn’t just for digital nomads or tech-focused startups anymore. Any kind and size of organization can leverage the obvious advantages and opportunities for reduced risks and costs. ownCloud for example enables content collaboration wholly based on open-source technology for any user and any company, no matter how big or small the installation, no matter how small or large the customization needs. Through high performance, usability and ease of deployment as well as scale, security and robust support, the vendor-independent solutions like ownCloud make open source a viable foundation for your sovereign workspace – and a true alternative to a closed-source ecosystem dominated by US tech giants.

Holger Dyroff

October 28, 2020

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