The rise of cloud computing in Australian small business

Tracey Porter

For something that didn’t exist 20 years ago cloud computing has been quick to make its mark.

A term used for delivering hosted services over the internet to remotely store, process and share digital data, cloud computing has witnessed widespread adoption among Australia’s small business community in recent years via its advanced storage, accountancy and sales tracking software options.

It has been credited with allowing businesses – particularly those with a mobile workforce or those based outside the main city centres – to expand their markets, lower operating costs and improve productivity.

Simone Eyles, the co-founder of smart ordering company 365cups, says her company was an early adopter of cloud-based services and would now struggle to operate without it.

Her small business, which pairs its unique mobile ordering technology with hospitality and retail businesses, completes everything from invoicing to social media management from its head office in Wagga Wagga, NSW.

Eyles, a self-confessed techie, says having 365cups data accessible online means its two developers and four staff can easily service its Australasian customer base from their smart phones no matter what their physical location.

“From the start we have used the cloud, from our Google apps for business to [accounting software system] Xero and of course our servers. Being a startup with [limited funds] using the cloud just made sense, having and operating servers on site would of been a real expense for us, so by being in the cloud, we can access everything and only pay for what we use.”

Being a startup with [limited funds] using the cloud just made sense ... by being in the cloud, we can access everything and only pay for what we use.

And it appears Eyles is not the only one whose business has witnessed improved profitability and flexibility as a result of utilising the cloud.

A 2014 report from the International Data Corporation revealed that about 86 per cent of all businesses in Australia were using the cloud. Meanwhile research firm Frost & Sullivan has estimated the total value of the country’s cloud computing market in 2013 at $1.23 billion, projected to grow $4.55 billion by 2018.

Yet despite growing awareness of the benefits, research suggests providers still have a long way to go before all the benefits of cloud computing are fully realised among the small business community.

Data collated by the Australian Communications & Media Authority and released in 2014 shows less than half of Australian small businesses are currently using cloud services with the majority of those only using ‘entry level’ cloud applications such as storage, web-hosting, email and security applications.

Just 44 per cent of those surveyed shared files online, 39 per cent used the cloud to back up files online, less than a third used the cloud to stream audio or video files over the internet and only one in four paid to store data or files online with security, loss of control and integration cited as key barriers to cloud adoption.

Tracey Porter

Tracey Porter is a career journalist whose mug shot appears everywhere from daily newspapers and online news sites to business and consumer magazine titles.