In an era where digital innovation propels the growth of businesses, the profound impact of cloud computing cannot be overstated. The ability to seamlessly scale operations, efficiently manage data, and foster innovation has become the foundation of entrepreneurial success in today’s business environment.

Behemoths like Airbnb, Uber, Netflix, and OpenAI all owe their meteoric rise to the dynamic capabilities offered by cloud services. On the other hand, established financial institutions and multinationals have also embraced cloud computing to enhance their agility, streamline operations, and stay competitive.

In recent years, reliance on cloud infrastructure has become increasingly prevalent, making it essential for businesses of all sizes to navigate the complexities of cloud contracts. Understanding and effectively negotiating the terms of these contracts has become imperative for entrepreneurs aiming to establish their presence in the business arena.

Cloud Contract Types

Contracts between cloud service providers (e.g., Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, etc.) and customers, known as cloud contracts, govern the on-demand provision of IT resources over the internet. These resources encompass various services such as file storage, computing, databases, data analytics, and more, with numerous service subcategories. Depending on whether the underlying hardware is utilized by multiple customers or exclusively by one, cloud computing models can be classified into public cloud or private cloud.

Contract Formation

Cloud contracts are typically formed online, by creating a profile on the cloud service provider’s website and accepting standard contractual terms, including the Terms of Service, Privacy Policy, and Service Level Agreement. Although these contracts are commonly presented as “take it or leave it” agreements, negotiation with the cloud service provider is possible under certain circumstances.

Governing Law and Venue Selection

Cloud contracts often include choice of law and choice of forum clauses, specifying the jurisdiction and dispute resolution forum. Given the nature of cloud contracts, these determinations are typically made by cloud providers. For instance, when dealing with European customers, Amazon Web Services opts for Luxembourg law and court jurisdiction, Microsoft Azure chooses Irish law and court system, while Google Cloud selects California law and relies on Arbitration Division of DIFC courts in United Arab Emirates for adjudicating disputes.

In a hypothetical scenario where a customer situated in the Western Balkans encounters a dispute with these cloud providers, they would be required to file a lawsuit in one of these specified courts (unless local consumer protection laws indicate otherwise).

Duties of Cloud Providers

Surprisingly, most cloud contracts are not clear in defining the services that providers will offer. Rather than specifying service details directly within the contract, providers frequently refer to them on their websites or in separate documents instead. Despite this, cloud service providers are still required to comply with the fundamental principles of contract law.

Notably, the responsibilities of cloud service providers can also vary greatly depending on whether they are dealing with business clients or consumers. For business clients, providers typically make no warranties concerning the quality or reliability of their services, expressly disclaiming all guarantees that services will satisfy quality expectations, operate without disruptions or errors, or that content will remain secure and unaltered. In contrast, for consumers, they commit to delivering services with reasonable skill and care.

Additionally, Cloud service providers, as data processors, must adhere to basic data protection requirements, which generally include processing data solely based on the customer’s directives, implementing robust security measures, notifying the customer of data breaches without delay, and either deleting or returning data upon service completion.

Billing Models

Cloud service providers generally have two main ways of billing their customers: On-demand Pricing and Subscription-Based Pricing.

On-demand Pricing, or pay-as-you-go, charges customers only for the resources they consume, potentially down to the minute or second. This model is ideal for fluctuating demands, offering maximum flexibility but often at higher costs.

On the other hand, Subscription-Based Pricing requires customers to pay upfront for a set period, usually resulting in lower costs for longer commitments. This model is perfect for services that bundle software and hardware, providing stable prices and discounts for frequent use. These two models are the foundational billing structures in cloud services, providing options between flexibility with potentially higher costs and stability with cost savings.


Utilizing cloud services comes with several risks such as potential service interruptions, data loss, or breaches. Although this varies across different cloud providers, cloud contracts often limit the provider’s responsibility for various types of losses, usually offering only service credits for periods of downtime as a form of compensation. However, customers may negotiate these terms to ensure providers are held responsible for specific types of losses.

Additionally, cloud service providers generally cap their financial liability to one year of fees paid by the customer, which narrows the scope for considerable compensation in the event of a violation. Nevertheless, it is possible to negotiate for a higher liability cap, particularly for incidents related to data security breaches.

Key Takeaways

Navigating cloud contracts is crucial in the developing and still lightly regulated cloud computing industry. Conducting pre-contractual due diligence and negotiating these essential agreements enables businesses to effectively leverage cloud benefits, despite the challenges of standard contracts. This is a key to ensuring long-term growth and competitiveness in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.

For more information, please contact Mr. Matija Markovic, an attorney at Doklestic Repic & Gajin.

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