Adrian SchofieldAdrian Schofield

Effective use of cloud-based services could significantly improve SMME business and spur job creation, delegates heard at the Microsoft SMME Cloud Computing Executive Forum, presented in partnership with ITWeb at Montecasino recently.

South Africa managing director " rel=tag>Mteto Nyati recalled that during his childhood, his parents had owned a small shop in the Eastern Cape, and that their acquisition of a cash register had significantly improved the store’s business processes. He noted that the advanced technology available today, including cloud-based solutions, could likewise make vast improvements to SMMEs across the country. However, it was important for vendors to do more than sell technology to SMMEs, he said they needed to first understand the challenges SMMEs face, and then sell appropriate solutions to them. " rel=tag>Adrian Schofield, manager of the Applied Research Unit at the Joburg Centre for Software Engineering at Wits University, says the recent survey carried out by the Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) supported by a grant from , indicated that cloud solutions could deliver significant benefits to SMMEs, boosting job creation in the process. However, the findings indicated that there are many misconceptions and concerns about cloud computing among SMMEs.

There is a general lack of understanding among SMMEs of the terminology around cloud, Schofield said. For example, nearly half of the SMMEs polled said they did not use cloud services, but 95% ticked off what were in effect cloud-based services when asked which well-known applications they use. “So, most SMMEs are using it, but they do not know they are,” he said.

He said the study had also revealed that local SMMEs rated local cloud service providers below overseasbased service providers in general, and regarded , Oracle and Sage as most trusted names in cloud applications. Security, regulatory compliance and connection quality were rated among their top concerns around cloud computing.

Also speaking at the event, , CEO of the Tshwane Innovation Hub said cloud computing was changing the Hub’s own business model. “Initially, our business model entailed making infrastructure available, but the cloud is fast making this model obsolete,” he said. However, he said that the Innovation Hub, and its associates across the continent, were seeing a growing spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation in Africa, but that entrepreneurs needed support in order to grow. “Entrepreneurs need infrastructure, tools and connectivity,” he said, citing the example of developers, who could be given the opportunity to grow their businesses from home if they had access to high speed connectivity and the necessary tools in the cloud.