Why Customers Still Fear the Cloud — and How You Can Help

The IT industry is sold on the cloud. But your customers? Maybe not so much.

On the industry side, suppliers, service providers, VARs and others have leapt onto the cloud bandwagon. And why not? They all like the cloud’s many benefits, including dramatically improved flexibility, agility and scalability, coupled with usage-based fees.

But on the customer side, concerns still linger. Two recent surveys find that IT and business executives alike worry about security, the need for new skills and other cloud issues.

As a result, you may find potential customers still resisting the move to the cloud. The best way to deal with these concerns is to first understand them. Only then can you create a plan for action.

Trusting the cloud…kind of

Fortunately, these two recent surveys can help you do just that. The first, commissioned by Intel Security, finds that while 75 percent of IT decision-makers trust the cloud more than they did a year ago, only 13 percent trust it enough for their most sensitive data.

Intel’s survey reached some 1,200 IT pros in nine countries, all at organizations with more than 250 employees, and all with influence over their organizations’ security. That’s a good sample, so the results are certainly credible.

Another big issue with the cloud, Intel found, is compliance; it was cited by fully 70 percent of survey respondents. Along the same lines, more than 85 percent of respondents admitted to not even knowing whether their organizations store sensitive data in the cloud. Not good.

Even among organizations that have already moved to the cloud, problems linger, Intel’s survey found. More than 25 percent of respondents said they’ve experienced difficulties migrating services or data to the cloud. Nearly as many complained of the public cloud’s costs and fees, lack of visibility into their cloud providers’ operations, and data loss or breaches.

Slow progress on public cloud

All this is leading to slower-than-expected progress, especially in the public cloud, finds the second recent survey, this one conducted by Softchoice, an MSP. It reached 500 IT and line of business (LoB) executives in the United States and Canada to ask them about the progress of their public-cloud adoptions.

That progress has been slow, finds the report, State of Cloud Readiness. Only one in four respondents said the public cloud at their organization is in widespread use. And more than 60 percent said they’re either just experimenting with or have only limited use of the public cloud.

Strategy is another related issue. Nearly 55 percent of respondents to the Softchoice survey said their teams are struggling to formulate a cloud strategy, the first step in any cloud transition. And about the same number of respondents (52%) said they have no cloud strategy at all.

New skills for managing the cloud are among the top barriers, Softchoice found:

> Nearly 55 percent of respondents still struggle to acquire the cloud’s needed skills.

> Yet nearly half the respondents said staff training for the cloud is not among their top priorities. (Talk about mismatches!)

> No surprise, then, that nearly 35 percent of IT leaders surveyed said their organizations have experienced a cloud failure caused by the staff.

What you can do now

All that adds up to a troubled picture. But don’t despair. There’s plenty for a service provider to do:

> Address security concerns: First, make sure your clients understand that the security practices of large cloud suppliers are often more robust than those of most small or medium businesses. Second, make sure your clients also understand that this doesn’t mean no risk at all. Breaches will undoubtedly occur. That’s why your third step should be to insist that clients use multiple backups. One large consulting firm advocates what it calls a 3-2-1 strategy: make at least 3 copies of each file, stored in at least 2 formats, and physically residing in at least 1 other location. Whether you follow that approach is up to you, but the point is clear: make backups and have a recovery plan.

> Provide training: When over half of IT and LoB managers alike cite the challenge of new skills for the cloud, that’s a big business opportunity for you. Offer clients cloud training, either with your own staff or a training partner. Training needn’t be a one-shot deal, either. Beyond initial training, you can also offer refresher courses, advanced skills courses and other follow-ons.

> Help with strategy: The Softchoice survey finds that many companies have no cloud strategy, meaning they lack any plan for moving to the cloud. That’s a real show-stopper, but it’s also an opportunity for you to help. Show your clients how others you’ve worked with have already adopted the cloud. Give suggestions of your own. Help them formulate a plan for getting started.

> Offer superior technology: One powerful way to overcome clients’ doubts and fears about the cloud is to show them high-quality technology. Often, what cloud providers offer is superior to anything your clients could do on their own. This is also the moment to mention your technology partners. For example, if you work with Microsoft and offer its Office 365 or Azure cloud services, your clients will likely find that impressive and persuasive. In this way, you can harness the power of partnership.

So remember, while plenty of organizations are dragging their feet on the cloud, your clients needn’t be among them. By understanding their objections, you can not only overcome those concerns, but also help your clients thrive in today’s exciting new cloud environment. They’ll be sold. And you? You just might make a sale.