Barriers to Cloud Adoption

I previously blogged about leveraging the cloud for application development, noting as the cloud computing market matures we are seeing an increasing number of robust infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) offerings that can accelerate new application development, as well as facilitate the migration of existing applications and data to the cloud.

A recent LinkedIn discussion about cloud computing asked whether small and midsize businesses (SMB) are embracing all that the cloud has to offer and, if not, then what are the most common barriers to cloud adoption.

“There is a lot of skepticism,” Sabharinath Bala noted, “about hosting apps and data in the cloud.  Not all SMBs are confident about cloud-based apps due to reasons ranging from data privacy and security to federal regulations.  I’ve seen quite a few SMBs embracing the cloud by hosting internal apps (payroll, HCM, etc.) in the cloud first and then moving on to apps that contain client confidential data.  In most cases, this is more of an exercise to build confidence about data security and privacy issues.”

Concern about data security and privacy issues is understandably the most commonly cited barrier to migrating applications, and the often sensitive data they contain, to the cloud.  This is why, as Steve O’Donnell commented, “commodity applications such as email, document management, and communications are being migrated first.  However, extremely critical applications such as CRM, ERP, and salesforce management are being adopted quickly as these really appeal to mobile workers.”

I have previously blogged about mobile devices being the biggest driver for cloud adoption since almost all mobile applications are based on a mobile-app-portal-to-the-cloud computing model.  Therefore, since without the cloud mobile devices can not be leveraged to their fullest potential, it is not surprising to see a high correlation between cloud adoption and mobile enablement.

Nor is it surprising to see that “the S in SMB is adopting the cloud faster than the M,” as Karthik Balachandran observed, “partially because the cloud has given smaller businesses access to IT assets that they did not have before.  But, larger businesses still enjoy returns from their traditional IT investments.  Call it legacy drag?”

Legacy drag is certainly a real concern, but another reason smaller firms may be migrating faster is because, as Karen Harrison commented, “companies with larger IT departments also feel a sense of loyalty to the people they have, and that also contributes to the lag.  In today’s economy, many companies don’t want to lay off workers who have been with them a long time.”

But lacking some of these legacy challenges facing larger businesses doesn’t necessarily mean that SMBs have an easier path to the cloud.  Although “there is no reason for your average SMB to not leverage what is available in the cloud to the fullest,” noted Fred McClimans, “realistically, this is not a technology issue, but rather a behavioral issue that goes well beyond the cloud: we’ve been conditioned to think that we have to physically own something to control it, keep it safe, or treat it as an asset.  Rather than focusing on owning assets, we need to get businesses to begin to think about leveraging assets.  And just like feeling comfortable with cloud-based applications, this is an educational/comfort issue.”

What other barriers to cloud adoption have you encountered in your organization?


This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.


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