Why security will make small businesses move to the cloud in 2016

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

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It has long been said that security concerns are what drives small businesses away from putting their data in the cloud. Yet according to Oscar Arean, technical operations manager at disaster recovery provider Databarracks, 2016 will see more small to medium firms move towards cloud services as managing security in-house becomes an increasing headache.

In particular, Arean argues the need for small businesses to move to Office 365 – almost by default – because of its simplicity. “Every year, more businesses reach the end of life of their onsite hardware and are faced with the choice of on-premise or move to the cloud,” he explains. “Office 365 will be the default for most small businesses because it’s so simple to use.”

He adds: “You don’t need particularly advanced IT skills to set it up and in many ways it takes the headache out of security because you know Microsoft has a vested interest in protecting your data. The damage to their reputation would be huge if they were to suffer a breach.”

A recent survey from Clutch found that almost half of small businesses in the US do not use cloud storage. Analyst Sarah Patrick, writing for this publication, argued that while “for small business protecting data is often a secondary concern to accomplishing the primary business goal”, cloud storage services provide a high level of security. “For a cloud storage provider, keeping data secure is what they do,” she noted.

Mark van der Linden, UK country manager at Dropbox, wrote for this publication back in July that ‘adoption is key to security.’ “For businesses, the real threat to security is not the cloud itself, but shadow IT,” he explains. “It is time CIOs put adoption at the heart of their IT strategies. By employing user-friendly solutions, adoption rates are higher and the risk of data being held outside official platforms is significantly reduced. IT departments put themselves back in control.”

Arean argues: “Services like Office 365 can obviously never be 100% secure, but you can be safe in the knowledge that they will have a team of skilled security specialists working to eliminate threats – which is much more time and resources than most SMEs can afford to devote to security.”

Yet he admits it is still ‘scary’ for small businesses to migrate their operations into the major cloud vendors. “Even with public cloud platforms like Microsoft Azure, AWS or Google, which make the process much simpler, there is still work to be done in making cloud services more accessible and more intuitive for first time users,” Arean explains. “It very much still requires a ‘hold your hand’ approach to set it up which needs to be simplified in order to facilitate more widespread adoption.”

One option, as Arean notes, is to use a managed services provider, but others insist the hypervendors are not the best solution for small businesses. Mashukul Hoque, managing director of Manchester-based Datacentreplus, told this publication: “These vendors’ primary motivation for developing UK data centres is compliance-related so they can attract public sector and other very large customers who will not consent to data being stored overseas.

“Secondly, other than for the very large customer, their offerings are very much a ‘one size fits all’ that is good for a particular type of customer but unsuitable for many others,” Hoque added, citing colocation as a key differentiator.

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