By Rob Davis, Head of Technology, Sage UK Small and Medium Business Division

The worlds of business and technology have changed and the cloud has opened up new ways of doing business, of communicating, collaborating, and managing data. There’s no question we’re seeing an acceleration in cloud adoption as firms continue to recognise its potential.

To put this potential into context, if cloud were a country it would be worth $240bn by 2020 (Source: Forrester) and it would have a population of 13.8m – that’s how many jobs will be created by the cloud in 2015 according to IDC. According to Cisco 60% of business workloads globally will be on the cloud by 2016 and by 2015 its traffic will have increased 12-fold.

This paints an impressive picture for the scale of the cloud opportunity.

Tackling the ‘cloud gap’
What we believe, is that for many businesses considering cloud computing it is no longer a question of ‘if’, but a question of when. However, there is still a lot to be done in addressing the gap of knowledge and understanding around cloud that exists among small and medium sized businesses.

In October Sage launched the findings of our Cloud Gap research at a roundtable breakfast in London. The independent survey Sage commissioned spoke to 749 SME decision makers across the country and found 41 per cent now fully understand cloud. Yet, over half of all respondents (57%) admitted to having only partial understanding of cloud technology, pointing to a pervasive knowledge gap amongst SMBs that threatens to hold back cloud adoption.

The reality is, a number of people have probably been using cloud technology for years – be that the likes of iTunes, Dropbox, or Spotify – sometimes without realising it. Once people make the connection that a lot of the services they use in their personal life are actually running through cloud they can then start to think more seriously about the business applications.

So-called ‘cloud creep’ where cloud is being tried and tested in people’s personal lives before the technology permeates our business lives is a common trend we are seeing, and something everyone at the roundtable expressed a point of view on.

As the saying goes, knowledge is power. Businesses are fast waking up to the potential for cloud and mobile technologies, particularly as they continue to permeate our personal lives. Firms that upskill to break down cloud knowledge gaps will be well positioned to break through the pack and quickly leverage the benefits of the cloud.

Security over practicality
Another key finding from this research was that concerns over security and where data is stored is the biggest barrier for businesses in migrating to the cloud.

One point mentioned during the discussion, was that there is a degree of comfort when you can see the lights flashing on the box under your desk. But there’s a growing argument to be had that cloud is no less secure than on-premise.

Millions of pounds are invested in cloud security by providers who have security precautions that far exceed what most businesses can do in-house, and adopt the latest technology and security best-practices.

On top of this, questions around security in the cloud should not only revolve around data security, it’s about physical security too and there’s an education to be had when it comes to best practice. Just as you wouldn’t leave your bank details on your desk, you wouldn’t leave a device with sensitive data on the train. Businesses need to set clear parameters when it comes to devices too.

What a business should do is look at the benefits of cloud first, and then look at realising those benefits matched against their security concerns or requirements. It’s not all-or-nothing.

This research has shown there is still a long way to go in demystifying the cloud for many businesses, but it will not be long before these cloud prospects have the confidence to take that leap of faith.