Alzheimer's UK slams Salesforce for lack of EU datacentre

The Alzheimer's Society claims government won’t sign off a plan to use Salesforce because it still has not built a European Union (EU) datacentre

Phil Shoesmith, head of IT for the Alzheimer's Society charity, has called on Salesforce to keep its promise to build a datacentre in the European Union (EU).

The Alzheimer's Society helps 100,000 suffers of dementia in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Phil Shoesmith said an EU datacentre would remove the risks of storing the charity's sensitive data in the US.

Shoesmith said his organisation began using Salesforce in 2008 to help its geographically diffuse offices bring all their user data into a central system.

But Shoesmith told the Dreamforce conference that, due Salesforce’s datacentres being based in the US, he couldn’t get full approval from central government to go ahead.

“In UK and in the EU data, protection is a big issue,” said Shoesmith. “Particularly in government departments, there were some concerns about using cloud solutions, particularly US-based cloud solutions for our data.”

“The ICO was not willing to say 'yes' or 'no' about Salesforce, but was happy to bless the process we had been through. 

"The Cabinet Office again weren’t able to say 'yes, you can use them,' but they did say if you go through the right due diligence, you will have a EU safe harbour. Neither were going to give us a legally binding law dictate in favour.”

The Alzheimer's Society still went ahead with the project after doing its own due diligence.

The process included writing to a sample of service users about what it was planning to do with the services. Yet Shoesmith is still hoping Salesforce will build a datacentre in the EU.

“We are still hoping there will be an EU datacentre one day and the sooner that comes the better,” Shoesmith said.

“It was announced two or three years ago there was going to be an EU datacentre and it’s still not here. We would like to see one for risk mitigation.”

Salesforce would not say what its current plan is for opening a datacentre in the EU.

A senior member of Salesforce’s public sector division in the UK told Computer Weekly it was currently going through the second phase of accreditation for the G-Cloud project, meaning its usability for government is set to be decided in the coming weeks.

Update: Salesforce came back to Computer Weekly and said it was close to making a decision for a UK datacentre.

“ remains committed to building a datacentre in the UK, and we've narrowed it down to two co-location providers,” said a spokesman. “We don’t have an exact date or timeline yet, but we'll keep you updated on any major advancements.”

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