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Interview: Mateo Meier from Artmotion on PRISM, privacy issues, Switzerland's legendary neutrality and much more

Artmotion is one of these companies whose name doesn't betray what it does. ITProPortal probed its CEO, Mateo Meir, to find out more about a company whose level of secrecy and its close connections to some of the world's biggest banks and tobacco companies are a credit to the culture of neutrality of the Helvetians.

Who is Artmotion and how would you describe yourself?

Artmotion is the largest offshore data host in Switzerland and we provide services such as secure, high performance servers, neutral clouds to safeguard data and Swiss mail. We serve customers across the globe in 30 countries, and our customer base comprises mostly of medium to large international clients that place a particular emphasis on IT, security and stability.

I started the company 13 years ago. It was tricky in the beginning and the first couple years were very hard. However, the company picked up around six years ago and has grown year on year. Last year, we witnessed a 45 per cent growth in revenue amid a growing demand for heightened privacy. We are proud to say that we currently assist Fortune 500 companies and have been a key player in the sector for IT and security in the offshore market.

With growing political instability and in particular the recent stories about PRISM, How has this affected your business?

The PRISM story has been really interesting for us and because it has sparked growing concern over data privacy, we have seen a growing number of enquiries off the back of it. This is because at Artmotion, we believe strongly in data security and being located in Switzerland, we are in a unique position. The standards here are much more restrictive and it is therefore far more difficult for the authorities to access people's data. Snowden raised serious data security questions, which is now a cause for concern for all companies hosting their data in the US and EU.

Did PRISM kill the cloud?

PRISM has made firms more aware of data security. For example, a client recently asked "what happens if I save a file in Dropbox or on Microsoft Office 365? How do I ensure the authorities don't spy on those files, and what if they misuse my data?" The cloud has come a long way and the initial security concerns are only slowly disappearing. I don't think the NSA surveillance programme killed the cloud, but it definitely made it more difficult for the American cloud giants.

How seriously do you take privacy and what steps are providers taking to protect their customers?

We take privacy and security concerns very seriously. We continually test new practices and technologies to ensure we deliver the best possible security. More importantly in terms of protection and the privacy law, however, is our location. Switzerland doesn't belong to the EU nor the US, which makes it independent and therefore people can host data here without fear of it being accessed by foreign governments.

In light of the recent stories do you think providers are educating businesses enough about security?

I believe every provider takes the subject of security and privacy very seriously but at times I think providers can do more to raise concerns and highlight best practices with clients. In truth, it is difficult to get everyone to agree on the same things but as a whole we can collectively do more to educate clients, IT professionals and, of course, the general public. This is something we invest a lot of time in but because of the fast changing pace of both the sector and the world as a whole it can be difficult. That said, we hope to see a lot more being done to educate businesses abut security in the future.

Why is Switzerland such a great location for the services you offer?

As we are based in Switzerland, it would be easy for us to say it is a great location for hosting businesses' files but really you only have to look at the facts. The country is politically neutral and remains independent from any government. Also, Switzerland is not a member of the European Union and therefore has not been affected by the Euro crisis. As the country is outside of the EU, it is not bound by pan-European agreements to share data with other member states, or worse, the US. From a geographical perspective, it has extremely low environmental risks, which is an important factor for many of our clients. These reasons alone make it a very attractive hosting destination for many international companies.

What are your thoughts on the EU and how does it affect your business?

As a growing company with an international client base we see a lot of benefits from being outside of the EU. This mostly comes in the form of security and the way in which we can protect our client's data. Countries inside the EU are bound by law to certain frameworks, which means they have to share certain data and intelligence with countries, such as the US. Being outside of this means it is much more difficult for outside government agencies to access data from Switzerland. This is because we have a robust legal framework in place which provides huge benefit to us.

With the recent changes in working practices and technology what do customers now look for?

The world is changing at an incredibly fast rate at the moment and one of our biggest challenges is the cloud. For example, it would be natural to assume that most of our new customers want a cloud server. However this is not the case, most put an emphasis on reliable and well tested dedicated servers. One of the other big changes is of course the mobile and the "bring your own device" to work revolution. We are continually adapting our solutions to meet these needs. People want access to their files on the move, while company owners want to ensure that their data is secure. It's a great challenge and who knows what the future will bring. Regardless of the technology, we try to stick to the same principles. This helps us to succeed.

Are there certain types of companies who your service has become popular with?

Our client base continues to grow, but we are seeing an increase in firms from the Banking & Financial, Technology, Energy, Oil and Gas, Security and Science industries.

What are your predictions for the future of data management for businesses?

I think there will continue to be two key trends going in to the future. These are the growth in the amount of data available to organisations and the increasing use of cloud technology. The data revolution is here and businesses need increasingly more complex and more expansive solutions to store their data. Money is replaceable but data is not.

What things in the industry excite you at the moment?

There's a lot going on at the moment and I think the most exciting thing for me is seeing the different approaches businesses take to working practices. These different approaches mean different IT requirements and, of course, we are only too happy to help with this. I hope the level of innovation increases and we continue to move towards increasingly better solutions for clients.