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Spreadsheets from the cloud are problematic in terms of data protection law


Cloud solutions and especially online spreadsheets are booming in times of Corona. Google Sheets or Excel Online help distributed teams to work together more efficiently. At the same time, privacy advocates criticize the US solutions as illegal and leave companies with uncertainty. Two alternatives from Germany could be the solution here.

Especially in times of Corona, topics such as remote and teamwork are gaining in importance. Nowadays people should be able to work efficiently in a team from anywhere and have secure access to their data at all times.

Companies want software that brings all team members together in one place and lets them work productively on ideas, tasks or projects. In addition, this should also be designed to be user-friendly.

But which intuitive solutions are there that can 100 percent merge remote, teamwork and data management and guarantee successful and, above all, safe work?

Table or “Spreadsheet” solutions should help here. There are enough providers, but not all can keep up with today’s data protection requirements.

Well-known providers are based in the USA

The largest and best-known providers in the spreadsheet sector are probably Google Sheets and Excel Online, followed by special solutions such as Airtable, Asana and Smartsheet. All five solutions mentioned come from the American region.

Google Sheets and Excel Online are two of the classics. The two solutions have made it their goal to transfer the functions of a locally installed Excel into a browser window.

Airtable, Asana and Smartsheet are specialized solutions with a range of functions that go beyond that of an online spreadsheet. Airtable sees itself as a no-code platform and a database hybrid. Asana plays to its strengths in project management and Smartsheet describes itself as a platform that unifies collaboration, workflows and content creation.

Privacy advocates are now taking a closer look

But what about data security, which is of great relevance in Europe and especially in Germany as a pioneer in matters of EU GDPR?

In Europe, personal data must always be protected from unauthorized collection, processing and disclosure. The protection of the individual is therefore always in the foreground and is defined in the General Data Protection Regulation GDPR.

The US server locations of the above-mentioned providers allow conclusions to be drawn about how the issue is dealt with. The fact is that no US software manufacturer is bound by European data protection regulations. This can lead to a rude awakening for the user. Just recently, on September 22nd, 2020, the data protection conference of the federal and state governments announced that “Microsoft Office 365 cannot be used in accordance with data protection at the moment.”

EU data protection officer Wojciech Wiewiórowski came to a similar conclusion and recommends that companies look for alternatives that “allow higher data protection standards”. So if you want to be on the safe side with regard to data protection, you should look around for an alternative.

Alternatives from Germany

There are two providers from Europe: Zenkit from Karlsruhe and Seatable, based in Mainz and Berlin. The two German companies use servers in German data centers for their cloud offerings and emphasize the great importance of data protection for their customers.

Seatable even goes one step further and allows the software to be installed in your own data center or on your own server. A clear plus point in terms of data sovereignty.

Prefer local or self-hosted solutions

Many companies rely on cloud solutions from the USA due to the corona. This may be easy and convenient in the short term, but it could prove to be a boomerang in the long run. European data protectionists have been warning of inadequate data protection regulations and online terms and conditions of American providers for years without any real consequences.

But that may not always stay that way and the American providers are nowhere near as devoid of alternatives as is often claimed. Zenkit and Seatable show that. They offer similar functions and have significantly better arguments in the area of ​​data protection.

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