For many organizations, the benefits of moving to the cloud are clear. Still, fear of losing control causes their decision makers to hesitate. Where will data be stored? Who owns the organization’s data? Who will be accessing the data? And what happens if the organization wants to switch providers? These are all valid questions - questions Microsoft has in mind when making a clear commitment to provide customers with control over their data. This commitment is unique among major cloud service providers.
Customers own their data. This belief is fundamental to the Microsoft approach. When a customer utilizes Azure, they retain exclusive ownership of their data. Microsoft takes steps to protect many types of data. Microsoft defines customer data as “all data, including all text, sound, video or image files, and software that are provided to Microsoft by, or on behalf of, Customer through use of the Online Service.” For example, this includes data that you upload for storage or processing and applications that you run in Azure. Customers can access their own customer data at any at any time and for any reason without assistance from Microsoft. Microsoft will not use customer data or derive information from it for advertising. We will use customer data only to provide the service or for purposes compatible with providing the service.
- Customer data is all data, including all text, sound, video or image files, and software that are provided to Microsoft by or on behalf of the customer through use of Azure. For example, it includes data uploaded for storage or processing and applications uploaded by the customer for hosting on Azure.
- Administrator data is the information about administrators (including account contact and subscription administrators) supplied during signup, purchase, or administration of Azure, such as name, phone number, and email address.
- Metadata includes configuration and technical settings and information. For example, it includes the disk configuration settings for an Azure virtual machine or the database design for an SQL Database. Metadata does not include information from which customer data could be derived.
- Access control data is data that is used to manage access to other types of data or functions within Azure. It includes passwords, security certificates, and other authentication-related data.
- Control over data location. When customers entrust their data to Microsoft, they are not giving up control. For many customers, knowing and controlling the location of their data can be an important element of data privacy, compliance, and governance. Microsoft Azure offers an ever-expanding network of data centers across the globe. Most Azure services permit customers to specify the particular geography where their customer data will be stored. Data may be replicated within a selected geographic area for redundancy, but will not be replicated outside it for redundancy.
Encryption key management. To ensure control over encrypted data, customers have the option to generate and manage their own encryption keys, and determine who is authorized to use them. They also have the option to revoke Microsoft’s copy of their encryption key, although this may limit Microsoft’s ability to troubleshoot or repair problems and security threats.
Role based access control. Microsoft provides an approach allowing customers to restrict system access to authorized users based on role assignment, role authorization, and permission authorization. Tools in multiple Microsoft cloud services support authorization based on a user’s role, simplifying access control across defined groups of users.
Control over data destruction. When customers delete data or leave a Microsoft cloud service, Microsoft follows strict standards for overwriting storage resources before reuse, as well physical destruction of decommissioned hardware, including contractual commitments to specific processes for the deletion of data and the destruction of storage hardware.