Clouds of confusion

by Elaine Mah 

About a year ago, I wrote about cloud computing and how small businesses see the benefits of cloud but struggle with how to capitalize on those advantages. 

Elaine Mah

So fast forward 12 months and the concept of “cloud” is ubiquitous — or is it? 

While I don’t think you can turn on the TV, flip through a magazine or read a business journal without seeing something about “the cloud”, earlier this year Eweek* surveyed small businesses in the US and found 71 per cent of respondents hadn’t even heard of cloud computing.  Of those that had heard of the cloud, only 26 per cent could actually define it.  These numbers surprised me and I don’t think you can ignore them. 

At Intel we define cloud computing as services and data residing as shared resources accessible by any authenticated device over the Internet. An easy analogy is to think of these shared resources such as software and information being provided to computers, tablets and smartphones, as a utility, like electricity. 

For most small businesses, cloud services tend to be software-based such as customer relationship management tools (CRM) and programs that automate business processes like inventory control and sales forecasting.

For other small businesses the cloud provides an infrastructure which can grow with their business. An example of this is Amazon’s Cloud.  

So as I look over the myriad of cloud offerings currently available, I struggle to reconcile the low level of cloud awareness amongst small businesses when the benefits of adopting cloud solutions including remote accessibility, increased collaboration and access to solutions once reserved for Fortune 500 companies seem so obvious. While the tech industry has to own some responsibility for the confusion surrounding cloud, what other factors might be at play?    

Is the fear of losing control holding some companies back? Or are small business owners so focused on surviving the economic recession that finding the time to learn about or evaluate a new business technology, despite the potential benefits, isn’t a priority?

So I pose these questions to you:  Have you heard of cloud computing?  Can you see any business benefits? If you’ve been looking at cloud for a year, what’s holding you back? For those ahead of the curve who have adopted cloud computing in your business, what results have you seen so far?  Have you realized any tangible advantages? I’d love to hear from you.

Elaine Mah is Canadian country manager for Intel Corp.

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