Gunn2Matt Gunn, Managing Editor | TechComply

Although most small businesses view technology as a primary driver for growth, they are still slow to adopt cloud computing, according to a Microsoft survey of more than 500 business owners.

Three in 10 small businesses currently use cloud technology, while 10% are unaware of what it is, according to the report. Overall, 86% of small businesses surveyed by Microsoft believe technology is important to the success of their company:

The survey, commissioned by Microsoft for National Small Business Week, looked at what role technology plays for companies making up this critical part of the economy. While the results show there is clear significance of technology, many small businesses are missing out on the value of cloud technology.

60 percent of small businesses attribute increased revenue to technology and another 60 percent feel technology allows them to compete with similar size and/or larger companies.

The lack of awareness — or a hazy definition of what the cloud actually is — could in part be responsible for the slow uptake among small businesses, it’s still been a major topic in IT for the past several years. That trend may be changing. Citing a Pricewaterhousecoopers study,¬†Bank Technology News recently reported that 71% of bank executives say they plan to invest more in cloud computing.

Many small businesses, and many small financial institutions, can’t afford to make mistakes when investing in new technology. That’s reflected in Microsoft’s survey, which indicates the three top technology concerns among small business owners are:

  1. Costs to maintain or upgrade technology (35%)
  2. Security (22%)
  3. The ability to access from multiple devices in any location (16%)

These are all areas where the cloud might actually come in handy to the price-conscious small business. A common refrain among cloud providers is that it can help alleviate the burden of investing in new servers, data centers or software. Cloud services such as hosted email free institutions from buying and maintaining their own Exchange servers; disaster recovery services in the cloud are highly customizable, and provide a highly available system replication and recovery. Just this past winter, Safe Systems saw record numbers of remote access sessions, as financial institution IT personnel logged into their cloud-based services to keep their businesses running in spite of record storms.

Due diligence and strict controls on vendor management are of course a constant consideration for banks and credit unions. However, as more become aware of the cloud, they’re finding these services can increase uptime, improve access, save time and even promote compliance.