Cloud computing - where SMEs stand

Cloud computing is often touted as the future business model that is bringing paradigm change in the ICT adoption pattern of small and medium enterprises worldwide. With this technology, your data is stored on a remote server, and for applications and programs you use a shared network and pay as you use it. Due to sharing of resources, economies of scale is achieved by the service provider and, as a result, your small business can have the same quality software and IT services as much larger companies, but at very low costs.

Due to their small budget, SMEs often fail to make the best of the ICT technologies, and cloud computing clearly offers a solution to this -- a small business no longer requires to invest in servers, networking components, storage, software applications, etc. -- and neither is it required to worry about hiring new IT staff or paying more for power and maintenance. The programs still work the same way on your desktop, and they can be accessed across the Internet from wherever you choose, thereby further increasing the efficiency of your business.

All of this sounds impressive, but why then most of our small businesses are still hesitant about going the cloud? Recently, I have had discussion with a group of SME entrepreneurs, and to my surprise I found that most of them didn't understand cloud at all or understand it only 'somewhat', and almost all of them expressed their unwillingness to move to the cloud. Overall, the conversation made me think that our SMEs are probably lagging far behind than we imagine when it comes to cloud computing.

What is the reason behind this hesitancy? I think awareness is still very poor. In recent years, we have seen many vendors coming out with a plethora of cloud based applications, and recently our MSME Minister has also said that the government is working on 'Badal', a cloud computing platform for MSMEs. These are welcome steps, but I think this would not be enough to make small businesses move to cloud computing in droves unless we first educate them about the technology. Spreading awareness is the first thing we have to do.

Security concern is often cited as one of the biggest obstacles for small business cloud adoption while, in contrast,  according to some others security is often not the major factor for this hesitancy as these concerns can be addressed to a significant level by taking services from large and reliable service providers.  Some small business owners also raise their concern about limited bandwidth and quality of network. These opinions reflect the challenges -- both real and perceived -- that must be addressed first to help small businesses go the cloud.