A widening cloud divide

Cloud computing in Australia is still climbing up the enthusiasm curve but early adopters are already racing ahead of the game, financially and technologically.

The latest MYOB Business Monitor survey has found that small businesses which have engaged in cloud computing are now 106 per cent more likely to have seen revenue increases in the last year, compared to 53 per cent in July last year. The spectacular numbers beg the question: are the early adopters racing ahead of the game, financially and technologically?

The past six months in the cloud computing industry have seen some substantial movements, with international players joining the Australian market, and opening data centres across the country.

While the proportion of small businesses using cloud computing has only increased from 14 per cent  to 16 per cent in the past six months, the attention and action by international providers in the Australian market confirms what we already knew; cloud will be an unavoidable and ubiquitous business transition in the coming years. Cloud utilisation will continue to grow, spurred on by such rewards as increasing returns on investment (it is more affordable than traditional in-house storage), productivity, efficiency, collaboration and sophistication,.

Rapid technological developments such as data monitoring and big data processing are now being not only utilised but developed in the Australian market. International providers, whether they stay for the long term or not, generates a surge in the variety and applicability in the services on offer, meaning consumers are better off.

Growth in the cloud computing market is a boon for the Australian economy. The cloud computing industry supports the move toward becoming a fully-fledged digital economy and a highly skilled workforce.

Australia was recently ranked the second most “cloud ready” country in the BSA Cloud Computing Scorecard, in terms of policy environment. This is an encouraging indicator of the strength we have as a country in this field and its potential contribution to economic development.

The development of the domestic market in Australia probably also reflects growing recognition of the increased security of onshore data storage. Offshore data storage still poses risks that are not yet fully understood, and therefore cannot be fully mitigated. As well, distance can create added complexities, such as time zone and communication inconveniences.

Although security is becoming less of a concern for some cloud adopters, core issues - of managing risk, keeping data onshore where possible, and having a thorough understanding of your provider’s security protocol and track record all go to building confidence and safety, both at the forefront of consumer concerns.

Onshore support is another major advantage for businesses looking to move to the cloud. Australian-based providers with onshore staff, who actually manage the service for the customers, visit their offices and pick up the phone when called, are in demand. Old-fashioned ideas perhaps, but just as relevant, in our experience, in providing a guiding hand to a business as it moves to the cloud.

Cloud computing in Australia is an industry that is still climbing the enthusiasm curve. The potential of the industry and the benefits to be realised by small to medium businesses, are huge, and growing. Early adopters are now seeing the tangible - and intangible - returns that are helping firms punch way above their weight. Those left behind will have an increasingly wide chasm to cross as migration becomes a necessary and irrefutable business decision.

Matt Healy is chairman is OzHub, an association representing Australian cloud computing companies.