July 26, 2017 By David Strom 2 min read

Lots of companies have disaster recovery data centers located far from their headquarters, but Estonia is the first government to build an off-site data center in another country. The small Baltic nation will make backup copies of its critical data infrastructure and store them in Luxembourg if agreements between the two countries are reached.

The idea is that Estonia could continue operating outside its borders in the event of a war or natural disaster. Officials from Luxembourg will be barred from accessing the Estonian data, just like they would be restricted from entering another country’s embassy. “In a digital world, we have to put aside old concepts of nations’ borders,” said Gilles Feith, the head of the Luxembourg government’s IT activities, according to DW.

Establishing a Data Embassy

This is a real issue for Estonia, which faced weeks of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that took down major banking and communications infrastructure several years ago. Since then, DW reported, Estonia “began storing some of its noncritical digital infrastructure, including information on its roads and government operations, in privately owned public clouds like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.” Meanwhile, Estonia’s laws are all stored in digital formats, without any paper copies.

The move toward a “data embassy” is about ensuring Estonia’s digital continuity. “It’s only one piece of the puzzle” to maintain trust in the digital society, said Liis Rebane, Estonia’s head of cybersecurity policy, as quoted in DW.

Off-Site Data Center to Facilitate Digitization Efforts

Estonia has been at the forefront of numerous other digital initiatives, including creating digital IDs for every citizen and business. Companies that aren’t located in Estonia can register for these digital certificates and create bank accounts online. But the country needs to continue to innovate and collaborate with other nations, Andrus Ansip, vice president of the European Commission and former prime minister of Estonia, told EURACTIV.

“I don’t think Estonia is perfect enough to teach other countries using its own example,” he said. Ansip also noted that other countries, such as Denmark, are taking leading positions in digitizing their business operations.

He called for cooperation among EU member countries to share threat data and operational responses. Given that the European Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) has only 30 staff members, this will be essential for combating future cyberthreats.

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