I work for Georgetown University as an instructor on cloud computing. I also published a book on cloud computing called, Above the Cloud: Managing Risk in the World of Cloud Computing. I focus on cloud computing, risk management, and cyber security.
Currently, I am teaching cloud computing and cyber security certificate courses that explore how we manage data centers today.
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 am surprised that more small businesses do not use cloud storage. My guess is that people working for a small business may use cloud storage on an individual basis, but the small business itself may not use it formally. In this scenario, the percentage of small businesses using cloud storage would be much higher.
In your opinion, what factors contribute to the large proportion of small businesses that do not use cloud storage yet?
One factor is that small businesses may not have the staff, the manpower, to deploy and manage the integration required to take full advantage of the Cloud.
Another factor may have to do with how small businesses view the Cloud. They may see it as an enterprise-only platform, which may have a dampening effect on small business cloud storage adoption.
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?
Each service provider caters to the needs of different sectors. Microsoft integrates with the cloud platform, Office 365, so that may lend itself to one approach. I would describe Dropbox as a standalone platform. It provides data storage. Then, iCloud serves the mobile market.
Each cloud storage service provider has a niche application and strengths that may benefit one sector or type of business over another. These factors will determine what provider businesses choose for cloud storage.
What should a small business consider before selecting a cloud storage service provider?
Most important, a small business has to determine the need it is seeking to fulfill. This may drive some of the integration requests and needs. For example, if a business wants to store files and have them backed up, then they need some way of getting the information from their business to the cloud storage provider.
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?
Because iCloud is associated with Apple and is integrated with Apple devices, such as the iPhone and iPad, its high Net Promoter Score may arise from a familiarity with the Apple market. It’s name recognition.
If a small business uses Apple devices, then iCloud is already functioning and may be the easiest option because it is integrated on the platform from the ground up. Also, if a small business is trying to support backups for a mobile device, then iCloud is a perfect match.
I think small businesses have the tendency to adopt the service that integrates with the platforms and software they use most easily. The less integration and development work small businesses have to do, the more appealing the product becomes.
Do you have any insight into why Amazon did not make the list of satisfactory services?
Again, it would make sense for a small business to use Amazon cloud storage options if they are using an Amazon-based or -supported platform. It’s all about the application-first mentality. Storage is secondary and will build on the business’ app-based platform. Organizations with a significant internal IT footprint will need to plan these migrations carefully but should be quick to show benefits.
Businesses that start on the cloud model likely will use the cloud for all services. This one-stop-shop approach would be more likely to highlight the value of platforms like Amazon that can provide everything from security, computing, and storage under one umbrella and can take full advantage of the economies of scale possible in the Cloud.
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?
I’m not sure if I can pinpoint a single event or factor that drives small businesses to adopt cloud storage. But, I think the growing adoption trend may be associated with the increased acceptability of cloud computing in mainstream society. People are less likely to mention risk when referring to the Cloud.
In terms of actual acceptance of cloud storage by small business, there's a lot more media coverage of the Cloud, and there is a significant increase in awareness of the Cloud as an option for small businesses. Cloud adoption may be becoming more widespread because of this new awareness.
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?
I think this finding may arise from how well Apple and Microsoft support mobile platforms. Both integrate with mobile platforms, such as the iPhone or Windows applications, so it is especially easy to store pictures. If a person is using iPhone photo streaming or they need to back up data from iPhone apps, these activities go hand-in-hand with iCloud. It’s the same thing with Microsoft. These mobile capabilities are appealing become smartphone usage is becoming ubiquitous and tablet computing has increased as well.
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?
Backup is an important task for any small business and probably is the task that drives the decision to adopt cloud storage. Collaboration is more secondary because at first, it is less obvious how cloud storage can aid collaboration. As the services improve their collaboration tools, the popularity of this task may increase.
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?
It is interesting that compliance is starting to be a factor in small businesses. Typically, the larger the organization, the more likely it is to be regulated and have compliance issues. But, the need for compliance depends on what the business does. Are they in a heavily regulated industry?
Benefits of Small Business Cloud Storage Usage
In what ways would using cloud storage benefit a small business? In what ways would it hurt a small business?
If the cloud provider is not sufficiently vetted, then it puts a small business at a security risk. For example, if a small business chooses a provider that goes out of business, then the information stored with the provider is at risk.
Due diligence is required and important when selecting a cloud storage provider. Businesses should check that the provider follows strict protocols to ensure information is protected. Also, there should be clear rules of engagement and timely notifications if there’s a change of ownership or if the provider gets into financial trouble.
What challenges to small businesses face when migrating to the Cloud?
With any sort of information system change, there's always a risk. It is important that the change is properly managed to make sure information is transferred from the business to the cloud storage provider. Checkpoints are necessary to ensure that data loss does not occur going from point A to point B.
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 believe the sentiment that cloud storage is here to stay and can benefit both small businesses and large enterprises will become more widespread.
But, if a company wants to take full advantage of cloud storage capabilities, it has to manage the service rather than just letting it happen. This means that if an individual is setting up their own cloud storage account, then the business needs to be aware of this action and make sure that the company’s information does not leave with that employee. Especially relating to security, it is important to be informed and actually manage it, rather than letting it manage you.