SMEs to be part of Australia’s cloud revolution: Turnbull

Small and medium businesses are set to play a major role in Australia's cloud revolution if communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has his way, with his department releasing a series of guides to encourage cloud services uptake in the sector.

Federal communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, wants Australian small businesses to play a major role in the "cloud revolution", with his department releasing a series of guides this week aimed at helping small businesses adopt and employ cloud services.

The guides have been launched following the findings of the Department of Communication's Cloud Computing Government Stock Take report (PDF), which was released yesterday and reviews the existing regulation that applies to cloud services in Australia.

The new series of guides for SMEs comprises four titles: cloud computing myths; questions to ask your cloud provider; small business privacy factsheet; and legal tips for small business using cloud services.

"The guides ... will assist Australian small businesses to be part of this revolution. They cover a range of topics from questions to ask your cloud provider, to legal issues to consider in the cloud," said Turnbull in a statement posted on his office's website.

"Cloud computing is already proving to be revolutionary for small businesses, as it significantly lowers cost barriers to ICT adoption," he said. "KPMG estimates the increased adoption of cloud services in Australian firms could boost the Australian economy by AU$3.32 billion a year."

According to the Department of Communications, emerging business models for SMEs that incorporate cloud services can enable organisations to adopt information and communications technology services at a lower cost and with greater ease than those that do not.

However, cloud services uptake in Australia amongst SMEs seems to be lagging behind international peers, according to the department, with the new guides intended to encourage a boost in local uptake.

"Despite the clear benefits that cloud computing can offer small businesses, adoption in Australia has been limited compared to other OECD countries," the Cloud Computing Government Stock Take document said, citing an MYOB Business Monitor study showing that only 16 percent of Australian SMEs are currently using cloud.

"A vibrant Australian cloud services market, in which there is strong competition, benefits consumers through increased choice, better quality services and lower prices," it said.

The document also said that although the current federal regulation supports the efficient functioning of the Australian cloud services market, there was also a need to "reflect on the extent to which existing laws may constrain competition and innovation" in the local cloud market.

"It is government policy that regulation should not be the default option for policy makers and should only be imposed where it provides a net benefit to the community," the report said. "For this reason, sector specific regulation should be recognised as the very last option to be considered by decision makers."

The Department of Communication's push to encourage SMEs into the cloud seems to be at odds with the government's move to put off its own shift into the cloud, despite the Commission of Audit recommending it adopt a cloud-first strategy.

In its report, the Commission called for the government to adopt a cloud-oriented strategy aimed at lowering IT costs over the next three to five years. However, Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, said that cloud computing would be considered following the 2014-15 budget.