Oct 262011
 
teamwork in the cloud

As part of their push into online applications, telecommunications company Optus yesterday released their Digital Ready report examining Australian small business’ use of cloud computing services.

One of the notable results is that only four percent of small business proprietors claim to use cloud computing services and 59% are unsure of what exactly cloud computing is.

Those results are surprisingly poor and indicate businesses don’t see the benefit or value in cloud computing services. There seems to be a number of factors driving this.

Misunderstanding cloud computing

That over 90% of small business owners claim not to be using cloud computing indicates many simply don’t know what these services are. If asked most would admit to using Facebook, web mail or some other online or social media platform that runs on cloud computing.

That’s an education issue and if anything is a criticism of those of us – including myself – who are trying to explain the concept. We can do better as an industry.

Security

Many businesses, big and small, misunderstand technology security risks and have an inflated view of how secure their own desktop, networks and servers are. In many ways the security of cloud services is better than most small business IT systems.

Where the security argument falls down is in the hyperbole of many IT security vendors – every month we hear breathless reports, repeated by gullible technology journalists, of how smartphones, social media or Apple Macs are going to be struck down by a new wave of viruses and each time the “threat” quietly fades away into obscurity.

As long as hysterical fear stories about the security of smartphones and cloud services circulate in the media, it’s understandable that small business owners will be wary of trusting technologies they don’t fully understand.

Sunk costs

Many established businesses have sunk costs in existing software and hardware. For proprietors or managers to justify moving a new service, whether it’s on the cloud or not, there has to be a clear financial benefit in doing so.

Terms of Service risk

Cloud services – whether free or paid – come with a set of terms and conditions. Online Payment, social media and other cloud computing services have shown themselves to be quick in shutting down business accounts without warning, any due process or an accesible way to resolve disputes.

Quite rightly, many business owners are wary of risking key processes or data to services that might cut them off without notice and who often lack a customer service culture.

The reluctant advisors

Business IT consultants struggle with cloud services. Cloud services are a threat to those used to making money from selling servers, software and desktop computers.

For the more far sighted consultants, the thin margins offered by cloud services mean they have to rely on fees for service. If something goes wrong, the client’s first call will be to the trusted advisor and not to the service providers’ helpdesks.

This is a headache too far for many consultants as they know they’ll probably not get paid for the time spent sifting the truth in a blizzard of vendor finger pointing. It’s far less risk and more profitable to recommend a server and desktop solution.

Is cloud computing important?

For businesses, the economics of cloud computing is changing industry dynamics. With lower capital costs, it makes enterprises more flexible and responsive to changing markets.

Cloud services are critical to businesses – for established companies they’ll find themselves losing out if they don’t at least consider the advantages and choose the right online tools.

The onus right now though is on cloud computing vendors to tell their stories better and demonstrate why they can be trusted with key business processes and valuable data.

  One Response to “Why small businesses aren’t using cloud computing”

  1. Great article Paul, you are right on the money there!

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