Although there has been a trend towards cloud services over the past years both locally and internationally; there is a part of me that wonders if it is just a fad we are caught up in or if it is really here to stay.
It is easy to suppose that it may be a fad in South Africa as we lag behind the rest of the world for a number of reasons. Although we are making constant strides in the right direction, we still have a lack of infrastructure to support the high speed connectivity needed to make cloud a fully viable option; even in urban areas and office parks you can struggle along with only EDGE access.
POPI legislation has made cloud services even more complicated by not passing direct responsibility for data onto service providers, throwing up yet another barrier to South African businesses catching up. Obviously, all businesses endeavour to do everything they can to protect the information entrusted to them, but putting the information into the cloud does not relieve the business owner of direct responsibility for the security of that information.
With hugely topical international stories of naked celeb photos appearing online after iCloud personal accounts were hacked earlier this year and companies as big as Google being hacked and having almost 5 million passwords stolen and leaked, how do you as a small business convince a client that it is safe to store their financial information in the cloud?
On the flip side of the coin, cloud services hold a myriad of positives for businesses of all sizes. First and foremost is the security aspect itself; in most instances, regardless of the feeling that you can better protect your own data, in reality a business that specialises in storing data is going to have better security in place than the average business can afford. Yes, they hacked into Google, but it most likely took the hackers far more effort to breach the security's layers there than it would to penetrate your own local servers.
Cloud also essentially fully replaces the high costs of infrastructure, both hardware and software, in terms of acquisition, maintenance and upgrades. The savings of this alone might make cloud a self sustaining system. Replacing the infrastructure has also meant largely replacing the need for internal IT specialists, allowing you to put your money and focus into the resources that you need to optimise your actual business.
So while a part of me can see the possibility that people might once again begin bringing their data back in-house where they feel it is safer and easier to protect, in the long run I believe the cloud is here to stay.
*As published in Accountancy South Africa magazine in December 2014