Forrester conducted its "State Of Emerging SMB Hardware: 2009 To 2010" survey over two months and returned around 3,000 business respondents. Roughly 51% of those respondents named uncertainty about security in cloud environments the biggest obstacle to adoption.
"The only thing that changed from this year to last year…[is that] the awareness level has gone up quite a bit," said Tim Harmon, a senior analyst at Forrester. "Sometimes when you talk the language of cloud computing to [small and medium businesses], they don't understand it."
"[SMBs'] concerns [about cloud computing] will come down as they are better educated," he said. "On the flip side, tech vendors are going to have to address some of these concerns."
Getting your data out of cloud services offered by Amazon, Microsoft and other vendors can also be more expensive than getting it in, an issue that Harmon said raised red flags for potential customers. Cloud vendors also underestimated the savviness of their customers, he added, if they thought products would get a free pass for being cool.
"Particularly this year, every IT dollar is under the magnifying glass," he said.
Thomas Young, partner and managing director at IT contract broker TPI, said that what users buy depends on where they're standing. In his experience, SMBs can't afford to ignore low-cost, low-investment options like cloud computing, and don't have the luxury of micro-managing IT resources, he said.
"The smaller businesses really have no choice," Young said.
Larger firms take a far more measured and thoughtful approach, demanding concessions on cloud weaknesses like security, transparency and performance guarantees, said Young. If current providers like Amazon don't step up, he said, others will in very short order.
Carl Brooks is the Technology Writer at SearchCloudComputing.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.