It is a fact that cloud computing has irreversibly changed the way we work and play for the better, but to many the cloud is still a nondescript, amorphous term that conjures up nothing but confusion. Indeed, a survey of 1,000 people earlier this year by Webfusion revealed that two-thirds of consumers don’t have a clear view on what the cloud is, let alone that they are already using it every day.
The cloud is already part of our everyday life – whenever we log on to online banking, Amazon, Gmail, iTunes or Facebook to name just a few we are making use of cloud-based software. These companies use cloud technology to store your emails, to share your photos and to host your financial records. Facebook alone has 1.1bn users worldwide. That is 1.1bn cloud-users, whether they know it or not.
Even though cloud computing has been around in business for a number of years, there’s still a degree of reluctance for many small businesses to adopt the cloud despite its many benefits. A recent report from the Centre for Economics and Business Research showed that 84% of large businesses are using it, compared to just 66 per cent of SMEs.
With that in mind, I thought I’d unpick some of the common misconceptions holding small businesses back from embracing the cloud:
1. The cloud is only designed for big enterprises
Small businesses can make as much use of cloud technology as the largest corporations. It is a fallacy that cloud providers are designed only for big enterprises. In fact, the cloud has leveled the playing field in terms of the affordability and availability of software and infrastructure to businesses of all sizes.
At Intuit, our brand new QuickBooks Online software, for example, is specifically designed to make managing finances easier and more efficient for small business owners, so they can access their accounts in real time, from anywhere, without having to continually pester their accountants to get updates.
2. The cloud is not supported like traditional software
Another myth that needs busting is that by using the cloud, you forgo the traditional forms of IT support you are used to. Cloud software, on the other hand, is perceived as faceless: you may not necessarily know who you can contact if any problems arise. This simply isn’t the case, but make sure you do your research before you buy some companies will offer round-the-clock phone support.
3. The cloud is not secure
Unfortunately, the most persistent myth about the cloud is around security. Recent research commissioned by Intuit showed that 82 per cent of accountants surveyed saw this as their biggest concern. This fear of storing your most valuable information and data in an intangible space is somewhat understandable, but in reality, it is just as secure as it is stored in a server in your office or on your desktop, if not more so.
Cloud providers offer stringent protective measures such as firewalls and proxies, to guard your data. At Intuit we encrypt the data stored with us three times and house it in multiple locations to give it the ultimate protection. Just because other companies are using the cloud, it doesn’t mean they are free to explore your work whenever they like cloud providers offer the right measures to keep your data secure. Remember, we are the guardians of your data, we don’t own it.
Despite a steady uptake, it seems these lingering myths are preventing small businesses really getting to grips with the cloud and they need to be laid to rest. Rather than seeing the cloud as a confusing, abstract entity, small business owners should recognize how much they are already using its services in their everyday lives and embrace it for their businesses.
Bobby Chadha is a qualified accountant and resident cloud-based accountancy expert of Intuit.