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Going global: How European businesses can expand in 2023 – and beyond

In this guest article, Andy Lockhart, Vice President of Europe, Middle East, and Africa for Cloudflare, discusses how businesses can use technology to scale up their capabilities as they expand and how to tackle barriers like network usage and cloud egress fees.

Despite the economic challenges and uncertainties of today’s business environment, there has never been a better time for European businesses that are looking to expand globally to take that leap.

The world is only becoming more interconnected. Technology, and especially the Internet, makes growing a business easier than ever before. From increasing customer experience and leveraging the power of social media for marketing to providing online ordering for customers or partners to hiring employees remotely, companies looking to expand in Europe no longer have to be held back by borders or geography. If you’re a business leader looking to grow your business in 2023, here are a few pieces of advice to help you expand securely and successfully.

Invest in technology that can scale with you

One of the main challenges businesses often face when trying to scale up or expand their operations is being held back by legacy technology that can’t handle an increase in workload, whether that’s more orders, more employees, or simply more data passing through the system.

Historically, businesses using on-premises technology needed to make significant investments in new hardware, data centres and IT staff to keep up with growth. Fortunately, today’s organisations have another option: the cloud. Cloud technology offers greater flexibility and scalability than legacy data stores and IT infrastructure.

Moving your business to the cloud means you’ll only pay for the computing power or storage space you actually need, which can be scaled up or down as required – increasing as the business develops and expands. It also avoids expensive up-front investments in on-premises hardware, with many cloud companies also providing support services to help with IT issues that may arise.

Migrating to the cloud can be particularly useful for businesses using a hybrid or work-from-home model, which requires more collaboration and immediate access to resources from remote locations outside the office or even from beyond the city that a company is based. Incorporating the cloud into your infrastructure means that remote employees can access the corporate network the same way as on-site employees, easing the way for seamless hybrid working.

Whether it’s supporting remote employees, enabling your first employees in your new Dubai sales office or opening up a full development location in India, leveraging the cloud is the way to go for fast, economical and secure connectivity as your business expands.

Protect business value

However, just like anything in business, expanding operations isn’t without risk. That’s why protecting the business’ assets is absolutely essential. Cybersecurity was once seen as the responsibility of IT teams alone, regarded as entirely separate from digital transformation and business expansion. However, recent examples of large cyber attacks making headlines recently show that cybersecurity concerns are an overall business issue to be addressed due to the significant reputational risks involved

Instead, cybersecurity should be seen as a layer of protection that wraps around all the applications and services a business uses, with integrated support that companies can depend on 24/7. This is especially important for businesses with employees working remotely, as it can be more difficult to keep an eye on employees working outside of the office to make sure they’re accessing the corporate network securely and avoiding falling victim to phishing and malware attacks.

Making everyone cyber aware, and implementing a non-blaming culture, can help avoid these issues, protecting not only the employees but the wider company and its precious data.

Implementing a Zero Trust architecture is the best way to ensure all the users who need access can get it quickly and safely. Unlike traditional cybersecurity, which protects the borders of a network, Zero Trust architecture protects the inside of the network too, trusting no one until authorisation is completed.

That means every device trying to access your corporate networks is authorised every step of the way, and users continually get re-verified. Information is only granted to those who really need access to it, minimising the risk of data leaks or security breaches.

In 2023, ambitious businesses need to prioritise cybersecurity, including a Zero Trust architecture, as part of their budgets and opt for integrated cybersecurity that supports a business’ entire ecosystem. Cybersecurity should be seen as the responsibility of not just the IT team, but also a company’s leadership team – a sound cybersecurity strategy is essential for businesses operating in today’s threat landscape.

Address data privacy and data sovereignty

One of the key challenges of operating in Europe is ensuring data stays compliant with privacy and sovereignty regulations, including but not limited to GDPR. The EU is currently re-evaluating data privacy regulations, including a potential new data transfer agreement between the EU and the US, so regulations are subject to change.

If you’re looking to expand to new countries and move your data between them, it’s important to ensure you’re on top of compliance with regard to relevant national laws and regulations.

The EU leads the way in data privacy and sovereignty regulations, so any business operating within Europe needs to be compliant with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). There are also limitations on how data gets processed within the EU that are important to keep in mind. For example, companies must ensure metadata that can reveal the identity of a customer stays within the EU and must encrypt data and handle private keys that protect data.

Key to tackling this challenge and navigating different regulations in different regions is making sure your data can be localised, meaning you have control over where your traffic is serviced so you can ensure it meets EU or other regional data localisation requirements. Working with privacy-first service providers that allow you oversight into where your traffic goes and whether it’s compliant without sacrificing performance makes this easy.

Tackle network usage and egress fees

Unfortunately, while the cloud can be a game changer, it comes with its own set of drawbacks and barriers that need to be overcome. Many large cloud providers charge network usage and egress fees, or fees to remove data from their services, that need to be factored into business costs and budget calculations for the year ahead.

For small businesses or start-ups that are growing rapidly, these often-extortionate fees can sometimes come as a surprise and significantly impact the bottom line, holding organisations back from their full potential. Among many other like-minded cloud and networking companies, Cloudflare has supported the formation of the Bandwidth Alliance which is working to offer discounts or waiver bandwidth fees for shared customers, providing cost-effective support in moving data between computing environments. By eliminating or at least minimising egress and bandwidth fees, businesses aren’t held back from growth and can more accurately plan budgets for the year ahead.

While there may be a lot of economic uncertainty out there right now, there are also huge opportunities for European businesses to expand and emerge in new markets. By keeping a few key technical considerations in mind, such as implementing Zero Trust security, staying on top of data sovereignty and privacy regulations, and minimising network usage and egress fees, your business can harness the power of technology to meet your full growth potential in 2023 and beyond.

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