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Finding the silver lining in cloud computing!

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MYOB is turning a cloud evangelist for SMEs after finding less than exemplary adoption, dampened enthusiasm and a whole lot of concerns.

First, the services firm found that only 14% of the SMEs surveyed use the cloud for business despite obvious financial benefits. Then it discovered why that number was so low.

  • One in four SMEs doesn’t know enough about cloud computing
  • One in five is interested but cloud computing is not on its priority
  • One in six lacks the confidence to explore it
  • Key concerns include lack of cloud knowledge, safety and security of data

Even though the cloud has been changing business for the better, confusion about its definition and uncertainty about its benefits are still fairly widespread among SME business owners, said MYOB CEO Tim Reed.

“Cloud is the delivery of hardware and software, such as email, office applications, file storage and accounting, over the Internet.  There are many benefits and collectively they provide a strong opportunity to increase business productivity so you have more time and money to concentrate on growth building activities, and to be more competitive locally and globally,” he said.

The MYOB survey found that businesses utilising the cloud were 53% more likely to experience higher growth in revenue and 55% more likely to have more sales/work than usual in their three-month pipeline than those who weren’t.

Concerns about security of business data in the cloud are understandable, Reed conceded, while trying to dispel such fears.

“Research into the credibility of cloud providers is essential. There’s plenty of helpful information, resources and support to help make more informed business decisions and this will only increase as these technologies becomes even more commonplace,” he said.

In a bout of evangelism following the survey’s findings, MYOB released the following five cloud computing tips for SMEs who would listen:

#1. Research providers. Look for credibility, technology expertise and reputation. Verify information via independent sources such as technology blogs, industry publications and research reports. Seek client references, too.

#2. Review benefits and options. Cloud computing takes many forms. Some require you to learn new tools. Some work only when you’re connected to the Internet. Focus on your needs and the business benefits, and choose the appropriate technology.

#3. Prioritise security. Cloud computing involves accessing applications, information and data over the Internet via a third-party provider. Therefore, the providers’ security policies and procedures are important. This includes physical security of the server, and security of access, firewalls, anti-virus protection, spam filters, disaster recovery and independent auditing and testing.

#4. Read the fine print. Typically, any contract would have hidden costs, add-ons or other features that will take up extra time and money to get everything running. Be sure you understand the repercussions. Also check out service level agreements (SLAs), especially in the event of an unexpected or planned outage for maintenance reasons.

#5. Test your IT systems. Look closely at your IT processes and infrastructure before choosing the best way to migrate to the cloud. Identify areas of business operations that will benefit most from the cloud, and start with those. Examine if you need to provide cloud access for all staff and for multiple devices such as computers, tablets and smartphones. Finally, in any case, lay out a roadmap for migrating to the cloud.

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