Channel Must Educate SMBs on Cloud

By Doug Allen Comments
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A recent survey from market analyst group Techaisle reveals that only about 37 percent of small businesses (1-99 employees) within the U.S., U.K., Germany, Italy and Brazil have heard about cloud computing. Of these, 13 percent could not define the term; 44 percent of the respondents think that cloud computing entails subscribing to services such as servers or storage hosted by a third party; while 29 percent think that it means access to applications over the Web. Surprisingly, even some of this last group were not familiar with the term.

TechAisle’s conclusion? “Clearly a tremendous education initiative has to be undertaken by both the channel partners and IT vendors to articulate the use of cloud computing,” the company said in a press release. “At Techaisle we believe that the vendors are busy courting large enterprises as they are easily identifiable and have established IT departments. Small businesses do not generally have IT departments, let alone knowledge and focus on cloud computing.”

Techaisle also clearly identified channel partners as the best way to educate small businesses on cloud computing, as these partners have good working relationships with smaller businesses. But it’s unclear if cloud vendors are providing enough support for their partners to sell effectively, or if channel partners are simply stepping up their cloud computing efforts in order to stir up potential market demand.

For example, 26 percent of small businesses learned of cloud computing from their channels; for those with dedicated channel partners, that number shoots up to 48 percent, while only 13 percent got the word from an IT company. Blogs, forums and other social media websites managed to spread the cloud gospel to about 25 percent of small businesses. Overall, cloud computing, at least for many small businesses, remains more a buzz phrase than a concrete, well-understood concept. And as we’ve seen before from other market studies, customer confidence in cloud services is directly related to their understanding of the pros and cons involved, so limited understanding of cloud is definitely a barrier to greater user adoption.

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