If you fear the cloud, you're behind the times

Security fears used to keep businesses out of the cloud. Now, businesses fear that not being in the cloud will make them uncompetitive.
Written by Stilgherrian , Contributor

Five years ago, Australian businesses were reluctant to use the cloud. Fast-talking cloud evangelists might have been extolling the cloud's virtues, but businesses were concerned about where their data was going, and how it was being protected.

Security was their number-one worry, and rightly so.

But that's changed, according to Don McLean, managing director of Fronde Australia and a veteran of the cloud design and integration business -- if one can have veterans in such a young industry.

"People will always talk about security, 'Where's my data?', and so forth, and that's not going to go away. [But] it's become less of a top-five issue than it was in the past, and it's more now about 'OK, I want to lower my cost of doing business. I want to increase the amount of innovation that I've got," McLean told journalists at a lunchtime briefing in Sydney on Thursday.

McLean isn't saying that businesses don't care about security any more. "That conversation will happen regardless," he said. Security is still on the to-do list for cloud computing deployments, and it's still important. You've got to get it right. But it's not "top worry".

"I hate to use [the word] 'disruption'", McLean said, to the sound of journalists applauding. "It's Uberisation...," and the rest of his sentenced was drowned out by our complaints.

But he's got a point.

"Whether you like it or loathe it, it is about that. It's about 'OK, how can I change my business, because all these models are changing, and if I don't change, I'm not going to be able to be in this business. I'm going to be disrupted by someone else.' And these are the things that are on the CEO's agenda [along with security]," McLean said.

"You look at startups in Silicon Valley, and they will use Xero and Google Apps, almost by default, because that's what you do, and it's a different way of working. The debate about what email system to use is largely over. It's now more about what collaboration system you will use," he said.

"One of the companies that we talk to, they choose Google Apps because they want to change the mindset internally, their internal way of working. They wanted people to think differently, and Google's a different way of thinking, and therefore [they] moved to the cloud."

James Turner, security advisor with analyst firm IBRS, broadly agrees.

"Several years ago, I was quoted as saying that most Australian businesses would be quite concerned about having their data hosted overseas, and at the time that was accurate. But I think that's changed a lot now. I think that there's much wider acceptance of cloud computing," Turner told ZDNet today.

"There are still pockets of people that are concerned about the geolocation of the data, but I think everyone's kind of gone,'You know what? I actually do realise that these people have got deeper niche capabilities in keeping these servers up and running than I do, and I'm ultimately going to get a better service out of this'," he said.

"So they're still aware of security, but they're definitely looking more for the positives that are available."

Ben Shields, managing partner of Deloitte Private Connect agrees too. His constituency is the larger SMEs, and Deloitte delivers its services to these clients via the cloud. Those SMEs have a more nuanced view of the moving to the cloud than they might have had in the past.

"It's not that security is no longer a concern, it's that it's no longer a reason not to do it," Shields told ZDNet.

"People are now really accepting of the cloud, security is still something that they want to make sure is correct, but it's not a reason just to put the shutters up. They're keen to understand it, but it's not an impediment," he said.

The other big force at work here is the consumerisation of the cloud. Heard of Gmail, for example?

"People are just used to it. It's become part of their daily existence, on their phone, or on their iPad or other devices. They're just used to it, and so extending that now into their business is really not as big a leap."

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