There are thousands of data centres around the world.
The rules on the movement of electronic data around the world need an overhaul, according to a Microsoft executive.
Many technology companies, including Microsoft, IBM and Yahoo, use vast data centres to run services over the internet and store data such as e-mail.
However, the rules for data storage can vary widely from country to country.
One might insist that data is kept for a year while another might want it destroyed in six months, said Microsoft senior vice-president Brad Smith.
"If that's the case, it's very difficult to locate a data centre in one country and provide that service to consumers in another country," he said, speaking at the Global Services Conference in Washington in the US.
Mr Smith called for new trade rules to ease what he called the "quagmire" of laws facing the information providers industry.
Andy Cordial, managing director of British company Origin Storage, agreed that there was a problem.
"There are a number of standards in place and if anything they're confusing," he told the BBC. "Not only are there different standards between countries but also within countries, depending on the sensitivity of the data."
The UK, home to hundreds of data centres, was no exception, he added.