Maastricht data and systems go to the cloud

Maastricht data and systems go to the cloud

"In theory tech businesses could abuse your data"

19-01-2022 · News

Over the next two years, Maastricht University will move more and more data to Microsoft’s and SAP’s cloud. In doing so, universities are making themselves more dependent on Big Tech, representative advisory bodies warn.

The launch on 10 January was postponed, but under the flag of ‘integral operational management’ Purchasing, HR and Finance systems are no longer in the UM’s data center, but in the cloud. 

This is the first stage of a process in which more and more UM data and systems are being moved to the cloud, says ICTS director Jacques Beursgens. E-mail traffic will soon run through Microsoft Exchange servers, documents will end up on OneDrive and (video) calls will be done via Teams.

Beursgens: “These are all services, in which we do not distinguish ourselves from other universities and which are all about efficiency. Working via the cloud means that you can open your files on every device, and that you can more easily share information with peers. In a world in which we are working from home more and more, this offers added value.”


More and more institutes of higher education are changing their minds and making use of services offered in the cloud or are storing their data there, while this has been warned against for years. The most recent warning came from (LOVUM), the Overleg Universitaire Medezeggenschap, which feels that the institutes should manage their own data again.

Data is the new gold, says chairman Rien Wijnhoven, also chairman of the Tilburg university council. “We work from home, we stream, we offer blended learning, we have all kinds of student and user data. What happens to all those data?” You don’t know exactly what the big companies do with it, is his point, and I am not even talking about what they will do with it in the future. 

Surf, the higher education ICT organisation, made proper agreements with Microsoft, says Beursgens. “Those agreements are legally watertight, but in theory tech businesses could abuse your data. They will come a cropper, and they are already being gone over with a fine-tooth comb by the various supervisory agencies. Moreover, Microsoft is a different type of business than Google, which earns from the sale of data to commercial parties.”


Last year, other warnings came from cyber professors and two years ago from the rectors of universities who wrote an op-ed about it in de Volkskrant. Apart from abuse, said the rectors, the American government can demand access to students’ and employees’ e-mail traffic and data, say the cyber professors. “We make the Facebooks, Googles, Amazons and Microsofts of this world not only the managers of our data, but also entrust them to act as border patrol of that data.”

Beursgens: “You see that tech businesses are subdividing. Microsoft has set up an American, a European and an Asian branch in order to arm themselves against any possible geopolitical influences, including legislation.”

Does the ICTS director expect resistance from his own ranks? “We are a university with critical people, so we certainly expect criticism from employees and students. And that is a good thing, because then we can explain our decisions and arguments.”


Why does the UM not just manage its own data? “If, as an institute, you regard core values such as accessibility and exchange to be important, you are more or less forced to work with the larger tech businesses. Also, by the way, because some licences are no longer being renewed, if you don’t make use of their cloud facilities.”

Lastly, Beursgens refers to the city of Munich, which decided to steer away from Big Tech in 2006 and for years after that only used software that was freely available (open source). “But what became apparent? This independence had a price: the software was not always compatible with the outside world, creating a lot of problems, and making the city government at times isolate itself. Today, the city government is back with Microsoft.”

That is, until 2020. In May of this year, the city decided to once again try to use independent software. Just like Hamburg, Bremen, Dortmund and Thüringen. “It remains to be seen whether now, fourteen years later, they will manage.”

Maurice Timmermans/HOP 


Photo Pixabay

Categories: News, news_top
Tags: cloud,SAP,Microdoft,Apple,Google,data,integral operational management,finance,instagram

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