Small and midsize businesses may finally be ready to shift en masse to enterprise-class cloud computing. These organizations' longstanding concerns about cloud security may be abating, thanks to government support in some countries and growing realization of the benefits that IaaS and SaaS can provide for specific services like ecommerce.
The cloud may be the best way for SMBs to match the productivity gains of their larger counterparts. According to a report from the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR), European SMBs currently trail big enterprises in implementation of cloud-supported services such as online sales channels, CRMs, ERPs and organizational data sharing. Major obstacles to adoption have historically included the high cost of mobile data plans, which would better harness the device-agnostic benefits of the cloud, and concerns about data security.
A Bournemouth University study found that nearly 55 percent of 300 SMBs consulted that had not invested in an IaaS cloud, indicated that privacy and security concerns were their main reasons for holding out. However, with the right infrastructure in place, these organizations may be able to set up private clouds that would avoid the risks created by multi-tenant resources and ultimately streamline IT procedures.
"Cloud solutions enable mid-sized businesses to manage their IT capacity in response to changing market conditions and improve customer experiences through reduced time to market," wrote the CEBR report author. "Furthermore, SMBs can reduce expenditures on IT staff, maintenance and hardware through cloud computing."
Governments assisting with cloud adoption
In The Guardian, Green Cloud Hosting director Kamran Maqbool expressed optimism about the prospects of enterprise IaaS clouds with SMBs. The U.K.'s G-Cloud program and the European Commission-funded CloudSME Project are examples of government initiatives that may make it easier for cloud providers to serve business customers. CEBR's coordinators estimated that cloud computing adoption could create 35,000 new businesses in the U.K. alone by 2015.
Still, potential cloud customers must be careful to vet the security credentials of their providers and avoid vendor lock-in. Half of Bournemouth University study respondents cited lock-in as an obstacle to cloud procurement. CFO.com contributor David Wood stressed the importance of finding a provider that offers full support and takes security seriously.
"The willingness and ability of the vendor to stand behind its products and services should be just as important as the functionality of those products and services," wrote Wood, later adding that cyber insurance may be a valuable asset to cloud security.