Cloud computing has the potential to save time, money and energy for businesses large and small, but new research shows it remains a source of doubt and even fear, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
Cloud computing is going to save us all. If you’re talking about time, money and the hassles of technology, that is. “The Cloud”, as techies know it, is simply a convenient way of describing any computer programme that is stored somewhere on the Internet but accessed from a computer, tablet or phone, and used while you are connected to the Internet.
Online banking is, in effect, Cloud banking. Web-based e-mail like Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo Mail are alll examples of Cloud e-mail. Many of us are using Cloud computing all the time. It’s just that the servides we use are seldom described as being in the Cloud.
In the past year, that has started to change, as four of the world’s major technology brands have released their versions of Cloud storage. Microsoft Skydrive, Apple iCloud, Google Drive and Amazon Cloud Drive now compete with a host of hosters of your content, ranging from free to large corporate pricetags.
But then come the vendors. Hardware and software developers, distributors and resellers are all trying to sell businesses on the benefits of the Cloud. These are fairly obvious, and range from reduced costs to improved efficiencies. If you don’t have to worry about the capabilities of your computer when using new software or a new service, a big chunk of your technology headache suddenly goes away. Along with a big chunk of cost.
The problem is that, simply because it is stored elsewhere, it is regarded as insecure. This is especially ironic, considering that most cloud solutions are more secure than the average PCs owned by an individual or a small business. But it goes further. Many organisations simply don’t understand the concept of the Cloud, due to industry terminology shrouding it in jargon.
The findings of the SME Survey 2012 research on Cloud computing, released this week by World Wide Worx, show that just 9% of small and medium enterprises in South Africa made use of the Cloud at the end of 2011. And that will rise to only 18% in 2012.
This should come as no surprise, though, as the SME sector tends to follow in the wake of technology adoption among corporations. Around half of all corporates in SA are still not making use of the cloud.
Ironically, the reason more are not doing so are almost exactly the same reasons as for SMEs: traditonal fear, uncertainty and doubt.
Yet, businesses large and small could benefit both from driving down the operational and capital costs of IT, and from obtaining richer functionality and better business flexibility. But no one has told them that in words they can understand.
Now the industry is changing tack.
This week, a senior Microsoft expert on the topic came to town to show not what could be done, but what is already being done to make the benefits of Cloud a reality for companies.
“If you go back 15 years, the big buzzword among business people was the Internet,” explains Edwin Yuen, a Director of Cloud and Virtualisation Strategy at Microsoft. “But the hype was around the concept and having an ‘Internet strategy’ rather than about what they were going to do and how. Today we see the same for the Cloud.”
Yuen presided over the launch of a software platform called System Centre 2012, designed to give corporations a framework for managing data centres and Cloud applications, rather than dictating a specific solution.
“But we’re not talking about it as Cloud,” he says.”Instead, we’re showing how to use it. The Cloud means you can double the number of people that can use your system, without having to double the support. That makes you more productive and able to focus on business needs rather than on managing the system.
And that, says Yuen, is no longer the visionary concept that most businesses still think it is.
“It’s here, and it’s now.”
* Arthur Goldstuck is editor-in-chief of Gadget. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee
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