I recently had an interesting chat with the operator of our snack vending machine while making a coffee in the kitchen. She was restocking our machine and had her iPad sitting on the table. In their 2 person company they now have 2 iPads and a PC. They do their inventory control and tracking while onsite at customer premises via the iPad. Then they sync it with their PC and, using an online storage solution they transfer it to the cloud; this then syncs with their online accounting package. Her reason was very, very simple: she wants to reduce the amount of time they spend on bookkeeping and back-office work so that they can be more productive and lead a more balanced lifestyle.
This is the same mantra I hear time and time again from small business operators: “Work smarter, not harder,” as the old saying goes. Yet with recent research from Zoomerang in the USA showing that 72% are “…not sure what it is”…or are “…not familiar…” with cloud computing, there is a huge disconnect between the needs of small business operators and their understanding of the technology that can get them there. http://www.zoomerang.com/blog/2011/05/02/cloud-computing-and-role-it-professionals-smbs
Highlighting the gap between the haves and the have-nots (as far as cloud goes) is other research recently released from global analyst firm AMI-partners. It shows that of those who have adopted cloud solutions, 38% prefer to purchase multiple or bundled solutions. This seems to indicate that the relatively early adopters are fast realizing the benefits of this delivery model and are adopting it in spades with multiple services. http://www.imakenews.com/eletra/go.cfm?z=partners%2C517888%2Cb1ghqdhS%2C21375%2Cbjrl8Mf
Which brings us back to our vending machine operator. They have been using this method for over a month — no IT staff, no IT help — they just set it up themselves and away they went. With regard to security she said they secure their PC, and just hope that the online storage service is secure. ( I imagine, for that matter, the accounting service as well.) This really begs these two questions: “How do you know who to trust with your critical business data?” and “Is it safer in the cloud or on my machine?” These are typical questions a small business operator would be asking when contemplating a move to the cloud and you can read some advice in an earlier blog piece of mine at http://cloud.trendmicro.com/?p=1048
When you start to throw mobile devices into the mix of the security discussion the picture gets a whole lot murkier. Although mobile virus’ are not the tool of choice for criminals – yet – with the consumerization of IT and the proliferation of mobile devices and “pads” or tablets, these devices of choice will become targets of choice in the not too distant future. This also doesn’t factor in that a device that fits in your pocket is a whole lot easier to lose than one sitting under or on your desk, so the ability to track, encrypt, backup, and delete the information on these devices, as well as protect them from malicious and fake web sites, becomes critical when your business information is stored on them.
The story of our vending machine operator is a story repeated every day in the millions upon millions of small businesses. That story theme is: around the world, emerging technologies are changing the way we do business, improving productivity and melding mobile and the cloud.
Securing their business data is going to be the #1 challenge as devices evolve and the info moves to the cloud.
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