Clutch spoke with David Amaya, a consultant at Cardinal Solutions, as part of a series of interviews about small business cloud storage usage.
Learn more about Cardinal Solutions at Cardinalsolutions.com
Could you describe the company where you work and your role there?
I work at Cardinal Solutions Group. We are an IT consulting firm that provides strategic guidance, custom solutions, and training for our customers. We offer leadership and expertise in cloud solutions, project services, project management, and business analysis, among other services of that nature.
Cardinal Solutions also is a Microsoft partner, and we recently were named central region partner of the year for building the intelligent Cloud.
I’m a consultant with Cardinal, and I work on developing cloud-based solutions and on-premises solutions.
Reflections on and Reactions to Clutch's 2015 Small Business Cloud Storage Survey
Finding #1: 48% of small businesses have not adopted cloud storage yet.
What is your reaction to this finding?
I found it interesting but not necessarily surprising. Adoption, with most products or services, tends to take time. It actually was nice to see how many small businesses have already adopted cloud storage.
Even though the Cloud and cloud storage have been around for a while, there are still many people who do not understand the full scope of what can be done with it. Cloud storage can be integrated into applications or used for analytics, machine learning, and big data.
Cloud storage can be a lot more than just a celestial folder.
In your opinion, what factors contribute to the large proportion of small businesses that do not use cloud storage yet?
Lack of awareness is one factor behind the low adoption of cloud storage among small businesses. Some businesses may be aware of the Software as a Service (SaaS) cloud solutions, such as Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, etc. Most, I find, are not aware of Platform as a Service (PaaS) cloud storage solutions, which allow for Cloud integration into applications and processes.
Many small businesses know just enough about the Cloud to be afraid of it and say, “I’m not touching that.”
Another factor slowing adoption of cloud storage among small businesses are concerns about security and compliance. Those are legitimate concerns. You want your data to be secure and compliant, especially if you’re working in healthcare or with credit card information, which demands being HIPAA and PCI compliant, respectively. It is important for small businesses to ensure their cloud storage service provider has features that will allow them to be secure and compliant. And, most cloud storage services have their security and compliance standards publicly available.
Another reason why small businesses are not using cloud storage may have to do with the service providers. When it comes to the big names, such as Microsoft, Google, or Amazon Web Services, they tend to focus on big enterprises rather than smaller businesses. Even though many of the largest providers have offerings for small businesses, most small companies are unaware of them. For example, Microsoft has a program called BizSpark for small businesses under five years old. The program provides software and free access to cloud services. However, the number of small businesses aware of that program, and others like it, are few and far between.
Finding #2: Small businesses identified Dropbox as the most popular cloud storage service provider, followed by Google Drive, Apple iCloud, and Microsoft OneDrive.
Do you have any insight into Dropbox’s popularity over other services?
I believe Dropbox is so popular among small businesses because of the marketing. It was also one of the first cloud storage services for the consumer. They really focus on consumer outreach and their brand presents the use case perfectly: you have data on your computer, but you need it in other places, so you drop it in a magic box. The simplicity of this idea is appealing to small businesses.
What should a small business consider before selecting a cloud storage service provider?
When it comes to selecting a cloud storage service, it is really important to understand your businesses’ needs.
- What type of information do you need to store?
- Is file storage the only task you are looking for, or do you want to integrate with other applications?
- What level of security is necessary?
Regarding security, it is good practice to have your files secured by central IT. However, many consumer services do not have centralized control. This means that every person has their own account and controls it, and they can also share access to certain files. This is both good and bad. It is good because there is an ability to share with minimal hassle. It is bad because it means a person can share access to files with people who should not have access.
Finding #3: The most satisfactory cloud storage service provider, based on its Net Promoter Score (NPS – willingness to recommend), is Apple iCloud, followed by Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive.
What distinguishing features make these four providers the most appealing to small businesses?
I think what makes these cloud storage providers appealing to small businesses is their familiarity and consumer focus. They are easy to use: you open up Dropbox and you drop files in. It’s that easy.
Do you have any insight into why small businesses are so willing to recommend Apple iCloud to peers and/or colleagues?
At first I was surprised, but when you think about it, Apple has one of the most dedicated group of followers. The high NPS score must come from the large extent of avid fans.
Do you have any insight into why Amazon did not make the list of satisfactory services?
There are different service models for cloud storage and some are more appealing for small businesses than others.
When a business wants to use cloud storage with minimal setup, using is a SaaS cloud solution is a great option because the provider handles the entire infrastructure.
Amazon offers more PaaS and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solutions, which require more infrastructure-building. Because of this, I think Amazon is more appealing to enterprises than small businesses.
Finding #4: The majority of small businesses began using cloud storage after 2011, and there has been a steady increase in adoption since then.
What factors motivate a business to adopt cloud storage?
One benefit of cloud storage is that it can reduce the cost of storing files. Otherwise, you would have to buy a hard drive every time you needed more space, and the cost of hard drives can become expensive.
What events do you believe caused the steady increase in adoption of cloud storage since 2011?
I think the increased adoption is a sign of gradual growth as more businesses realize cloud storage is benefiting them. It will keep growing incrementally until there is a tipping point, and then, everybody will get on-board and wonder what life was like before cloud storage existed.
Finding #5: Nearly half, 48%, of the respondents use a mobile device to access data stored on the Cloud.
What is your reaction to this finding?
The finding makes sense to me because small businesses are using cloud storage to make their data more accessible so it can reach more people.
This could pose a danger to some businesses. For example, if you’re a small business and work in healthcare, you have to be careful about how you use your data. You wouldn’t want a person’s health information to be downloaded onto a device that isn’t secured properly.
Finding #6: The top task small businesses use cloud storage to accomplish is backup, followed by access to files across multiple devices and collaboration.
What is your reaction to backup being the first priority activity over collaboration?
It makes sense. Backing up your data is a natural first step into cloud storage. It’s like sticking your toe in the pool that is cloud storage possibilities. Everyone wants to have their files stored in multiple locations so they can access them if their computer dies one day. It’s a logical step.
Finding #7: Over half, 61%, of small businesses need to be compliant (i.e. HIPAA, PCI, ISO) for Cloud storage implementation.
Does this finding, especially in the small business community, surprise you?
The finding does not surprise me because most of the time, businesses have to do some sort of activity related to compliance, such as collecting credit card information. It is important to make sure all your business activity is compliant in order to avoid heavy fines.
In your opinion, how is the integration of compliances with cloud storage service providers important?
Many cloud storage providers ensure their platforms are compliant. They subject themselves to certifications by independent third parties, as well as standards organizations. Whichever providers do this, will publicize it in some way. For example, the big three players, like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon, have web pages talking about security and compliance.
Despite this integration, a business still has to do its part to make sure the service is being used properly. If a problem arises, it more likely is a result of how a business is using the service, not the provider itself.
Benefits of Small Business Cloud Storage Usage
In what ways would using cloud storage benefit a small business?
Cloud storage definitely can help small businesses. The nice thing about cloud storage is that there are a variety of providers to choose from, and each one has a lot of resources. For example, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have huge data centers with more hardware than small- or medium-sized businesses will ever have.
When small businesses use the Cloud, they can have as much power as the larger enterprises. This opens up a lot of opportunities for small businesses. They can operate business models that would be too expensive for them if they owned their own servers .
Are there ways in which using cloud storage could hurt a small business?
Any service, software, or technology could hurt a business if used incorrectly. For instance, if you’re not aware of security – how to secure your data – it could hurt you.
The Cloud doesn’t do everything for a business. You still have to be diligent and do your part.
What challenges do small businesses face when migrating to the Cloud?
Knowledge and awareness is key, but becoming knowledgeable about the Cloud can be challenging for a small business.
Another challenge is that many small businesses don’t invest enough in security. The smallest businesses may have a single person IT department or not have an IT department at all. Developing a roadmap to meet security and compliance standards using cloud technologies can be difficult.
This challenge can be overcome. You can partner with another company, work with a consulting firm, or hire knowledgeable individuals. Then, maintain and continue to improve your knowledge base.
For example, with the Target breach a few years ago, information was first attained through a small business – one of the vendors for Target. The hackers compromised the vendor’s system and then logged into the Target site where vendors do their billing.
In this example, the first point of entry and the weakest link was the small business because they don’t necessarily invest as much resources into security.
This challenge arises both with the Cloud and on-premises, which is why it is important to invest resources into security.
Future Trends in Small Business Cloud Storage Usage
What trends in small business adoption and usage of cloud storage services do you foresee in the next year?
I think that progressive businesses will continue to dig deeper into cloud storage. Not only the SaaS but also the PaaS sides.
I would love to see small businesses take their data and get as much as they can out of it. There’s so much you can do with data now that will drive business forward.
Did you find Clutch’s study, as a whole, useful and/or interesting?
I found the survey really interesting. It was nice to see the data for small businesses because a lot of times, the Cloud is targeted toward larger enterprises.
I am curious about what the results would be if you expanded your definition of cloud storage to include more PaaS services, such as Azure.
What can be done with the Cloud is very interesting. The hard part is educating people without selling to them.
Over time, in the next year or so, people will become more knowledgeable about the Cloud and what it can do for them. That’s when small businesses will really benefit. Early adopters tend to reap the largest benefits. Now is the best time to get started.