It may have been a buzzword for larger organisations during the last few years, but the adoption of cloud technology has only recently rocketed amongst small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). According to global market research group, IDC, 64 percent of SMEs in Europe (that’s around 16 million businesses) now use at least one cloud-based service.

It’s extremely encouraging to see wider adoption among SMEs and understanding of the benefits the cloud can bring, including operational efficiencies, cost effectiveness and scalability. But it’s important that service providers and technology vendors maintain this pace of positive change by continuing to educate and support smaller businesses wanting to switch to the cloud.

There are still lingering doubts about the cloud among SMEs, and as an industry we need to deal with these one by one. Some reasons for the ongoing lack of trust could be:

  • Cloud computing is traditionally an outsourced service. With reports such as the 2013 Trustwave Global Security Report suggesting 63 percent of data breaches are linked to a third-party component of IT system administration, it is no wonder businesses are sceptical.
  • Cloud computing is no less secure than other traditional IT systems. However, organisations may also have felt that the idea of a remote Internet-based server for data storage and management was at odds with the increasing pressure to safeguard consumer and business information.

Additionally, once a business makes the decision to adopt cloud-based service, the wide and varied choice of IT and security suppliers on the market can be an obstacle. Many SMEs just don’t have the time and resource to filter through them or identify the best fit.

Service providers have been leading the change, approaching SMEs to offer solutions and educate them about the benefits of switching. As confidence in the cloud grows, I am expecting to see more and more small business leaders proactively seeking cloud services and making more informed decisions about the best solution for their business.

SMEs should be taking certain steps when it comes to ensuring they make the right the choices to keep their data safe. This includes choosing to outsource to a partner with proven security credentials.

The slight confusion here is that many vendors claim to be secure, but not all of these actually have official accreditation. There are a number of different global standards that relate to data security; amongst these is the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), ISO 27001 and ISAE 3402. Achieving any of these standards requires significant dedication, investment and auditing. Accreditations may not be a bulletproof solution for security but they do give reassurance that using the solution will not put a business at further risk.

Security is a major concern for many businesses migrating to the cloud, so it only makes sense to work with vendors that have received an official attestation of some kind as to the veracity of their security claims. Even so, the perception of cloud security is changing amongst smaller businesses, with a stronger focus on its benefits. Consequently adoption rates are increasing significantly and cloud services are featuring regularly as part of the IT budget.

It’s real progress that SMEs are choosing the cloud for the scalability, flexibility and cost effectiveness it offers. In a tumultuous economic environment, the cloud is a logical step for smaller businesses. I expect confidence in externally managed cloud services will continue to grow over the next year as more vendors become security savvy.

Other service providers have similar experiences when it comes to SME concerns about the cloud, such as Jeremy Keane, Director at European IT solution provider RISC IT: “Most SMEs, whether one man bands or small offices simply can’t resource a single IT manager, never mind a full IT department,” he says. “With so much of our business conducted online and reliant on IT systems, cloud computing offers SMEs the ability to have advanced front and back-end IT functions that would otherwise be outside the realms of possibility.”

In all, SMEs are well on their way to realising the same benefits of cloud outsourcing as their colleagues at larger organisations, particularly when it comes to using cloud-based security services. Though the vendor community still has some work to do in reassuring a growing market that the concerns they may have can be reasonably mitigated, security certifications and third-party attestations can help provide reasonable reassurance that solution providers have a good security pedigree.