Cloud service fears for firms

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Many companies continue to hold reservations over the cloud

Rightly or wrongly, many businesses across the UK are putting off investing in cloud services due to ongoing fears over the technology.

A survey of approximately 1,200 enterprise leaders carried out by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) revealed almost two-thirds of UK small firms have already embraced the world of cloud computing, but for the remaining 38 per cent of respondents there are some serious hurdles to overcome before they too will begin working in the cloud.

The top five concerns highlighted by this group were the potential for data theft or loss - a concern for 61 per cent - followed by reliability of access to data (55 per cent), security in terms of who can download or view files (53 per cent), liability issues (41 per cent) and fears over becoming overly dependent upon cloud systems (33 per cent).

All of these factors are of course serious and legitimate concerns for businesses to have. However, it is now increasingly unlikely they will in reality face any of these problems when implementing cloud systems if they follow best practice and manage their data effectively.

Overall, research carried out by the European Commission in 2012 showed that, on average, 80 per cent of European companies of all sizes could expect to achieve a reduction in costs of between ten and 20 per cent following the successful integration of cloud networks into their IT infrastructure.

Furthermore, productivity for staff was shown to have the potential of increasing by up to 90 per cent for some firms once cloud systems were in place.

Responding to the findings, FSB national chairman John Allan commented: "Many small businesses are recognising the advantages of cloud computing services, but there remains a great deal of concern that sensitive data may not be secure or the service not reliable.

"[However, as] previous research has shown, there are significant gains to be made from using this technology, so it is imperative more is done to address firms' understandable reservations and remove barriers to take-up."

Indeed, when asked what measures would increase the likelihood of businesses embracing cloud services, almost half (48 per cent) of respondents said plain English terms and conditions that spell out responsibilities for security and liability were essential, while 46 per cent were in favour of more transparent pricing structures from providers.

Mr Allan added that the fact so many businesses have already embraced these systems and are heavily reliant on them could raise concerns over the resilience of UK operators should anything go wrong, but ongoing efforts to clear up grey areas like legal jurisdiction over data held in other countries is proving to assuage the concerns of many companies right now.

"Clearly there is more for the industry and regulators to do to reassure businesses that their data is safe and secure. But equally apparent is the message from small businesses that pricing and terms and conditions need to be much more transparent," he concluded.