Cloud computing has opened a new door to small businesses that allows a level of innovation, functionality and efficiency previously only enjoyed by those with a large budget. In spite of the opportunities it presents, Cloud adoption has been slow in Canada. A 2012 Bank of Montreal survey determined that only 10% of Canadian businesses are currently using Cloud computing. 40% were aware of it but didn’t use it or intend to use it in the coming year. 50% of those surveyed didn’t even know what Cloud computing is!
Of those who do use Cloud computing services in Canada, statistics from Pollara indicate:
- 25% use Cloud-based software
- 22% use a Cloud desktop
- 20% use Cloud storage
- 12% use the Cloud for virtual infrastructure
Many Internet businesses in Canada are small businesses, and it’s small businesses that stand to gain the most from Cloud computing. It has allowed for consolidation, development and increased functionality of services that we’re all familiar with, such as backup services, online storage, or cloud storage with additional features. Cloud computing takes the virtual environment several steps further by also offering Cloud-based software, applications, product development and distribution tools, etc. It offers increased efficiency, higher productivity, and flexibility. It allows small businesses the opportunity to play with the big boys by making everything accessible and affordable.
Benefits of Cloud Computing
Financial – While good corporate tax software and bookkeeping provide a solid foundation, the potential savings in IT expenses alone has eBusinesses and small businesses jumping on the cloud. IT equipment and maintenance costs are crippling, if not deadly.
Scalable Resources – Major Cloud providers offer a selection of tools and resources that you can subscribe to or ‘pay as you go’, such as billing services.
Virtualization – Virtual desktop, virtual infrastructure, virtual software, virtual back-up… virtually anything can be done within the cloud.
Collaborative Development – Telecommunications already offers many options for collaboration on the go. Cloud-based environments expand these options to support and accelerate both development and deployment, and take you right through to market.
Mobility – Mobile access to software, infrastructure, and information.
Innovation – The Cloud allows you to try before you buy. You can test the feasibility of ideas without investing heavily in the equipment to support operations.
Drawbacks of Cloud Computing
Internet Caps – Internet businesses are obviously heavy users of the Internet. With Canada’s painfully low Internet caps, Cloud computing may not be feasible.
Security – The number one concern of businesses exploring Cloud opportunities, is security. Major Cloud suppliers are aware of this and have gone to great lengths to provide a secure environment. However, they are hacker targets by nature. Then again, so are website hosts, e-mail providers, banks, major retail corporations, etc. It could be argued that while they are a tempting target for hackers, Cloud providers also have the toughest security to break through. Our little firewalls at the office don’t compare to the security measures taken by Cloud providers, so the threat is somewhat balanced.
Lack of Control – Cloud security, outages, stability, services, and the Cloud company’s failure are all beyond your control. You can maintain more control with an in-house Cloud solution on your premises.
Why Hasn’t Canada Jumped on the Cloud?
There is no shortage of Canadian Cloud suppliers (Backbone magazine has a great list of them). Unfortunately, Canada lags behind the World in Cloud computing for a number of reasons. The lowest Internet provider caps in the modern World stifles Canadian innovation in a number of ways, including Cloud computing. Strict telecommunication control locks our country’s borders to healthy competition, keeping our connectivity expenses ridiculously high. Justifications abound, but the fact remains that Canada simply cannot become a global leader in technology unless sweeping changes are made to bring us in line with today’s global standards.
Canada’s size and spread has long been an excuse for the high prices of everything from Internet access to postal rates. Now it’s the reason small businesses can’t help Canada become a global leader in technology and eCommerce. Imagine a Canada where any great mind could sit down in front of a laptop and access everything they need to create, innovate and operate, uninhibited by something so inane as a usage cap or shipping costs. Imagine over 70,000 new Cloud-related jobs by 2015, a number Microsoft predicts will be the result of Cloud adoption in Canada.
There has been some attempt to encourage Cloud use in Canada. You can try a new, free Canadian Cloud program from CANARIE, in partnership with Compute Canada and Cybera. The program “is designed to help entrepreneurs develop and test new products without prohibitive product development costs, so that Canadian companies can get a competitive foothold in emerging technology markets” says CANARIE. Unfortunately, its free use is limited to one year.
“Building or even paying for computing infrastructure can be a huge cost and time impediment for high-tech innovators. The DAIR program effectively removes that hurdle,” says Jim Roche, President and CEO of CANARIE. “All Canadian entrepreneurs should think about how this rapid access to low-cost cloud computing can help them improve their businesses.”
Do you use the Cloud? Please share your experiences in the comments below.
Pollara: The Great Divide: IT Manager versus the IT User – The Cloud Promise
Bank of Montreal Cloud Computing Study (Press Release)
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