Cloud computing has been a hot topic in IT circles for some years now; but, despite the hype, there is still a lot of confusion about what it is, how it works, and what the benefits are.

Even people who think they understand about cloud computing have often found themselves believing some of the myths that surround it.

We’ve drawn on the results of our 2015 survey into small business attitudes to Cloud computing, and on many conversations we’ve had with clients and other contacts, to debunk the top five biggest myths about the Cloud.

Myth #1 – Cloud computing is a thing

Obviously it is a thing in the sense that journalists and IT people talk about it. But as a business owner you don’t suddenly switch to ‘doing’ Cloud computing as something very different from the type of computing you’ve been doing before.

It may be better to think of it as a collection of products and services that answer some of your business needs. We know they work because they use internet technology rather than connecting to a server in your office – but that’s not really important to anyone other than us and your IT manager.

So instead of worrying about whether you should switch to the Cloud, start thinking about how your staff communicate with each other, where they work, and how much flexibility they need. Would Microsoft Office 365 make their lives easier? Would you benefit from adopting Dropbox company-wide? Or are you already so comfortable with using Google products at home that you’d like to introduce them at work too?

Myth #2 – Cloud Computing is New

Those outside of the IT Network in your company may be of the opinion that cloud computing is a relatively new concept. It only feels like yesterday that cloud-based applications were created. It’s a little bit like digital transformation in the sense of feeling like a ‘new concept’, but cloud computing has been around a lot longer than you think. In fact, ask your IT Support team about cloud computings lifecycle and you might be met with quizzical looks.

The reason cloud computing still feels like a relatively new concept is due to the rapid growth this market has seen over the last 5-10 years. An example is Amazon Web Services, with over 20 years experience in cloud-based applications.

Myth #3 – There is only one Cloud

Everyone talks about ‘the Cloud’ as if there is just one, large, nebulous mass of data hovering over our heads.

In reality, of course, there isn’t a cloud at all – it’s a metaphor. And there are lots and lots of different servers running different systems, products, and services – all of which might be thought of as clouds. Some are public – and by subscribing to a service (such as email), you might think of yourself as renting a small part of a big, public cloud. Others are private. You might, for example, use a service that is run from one of First Line’s Cloud servers, or you might have a whole server all to yourself. Each of these different approaches comes with its own benefits and (sometimes) drawbacks.

Myth #4 – You’re either in the Cloud or out of it

There is no rule that says that you have to do all of your computing one way. Plenty of people adopt hybrid solutions – perhaps buying Microsoft Exchange mailboxes for their email but keeping their other data on a conventional server. Others gradually shift their computing one service at a time—in a more or less planned way.

So feel free to adopt just the parts of Cloud computing that suit you. The only further advice that we’d give is that you will get the best out of your IT, whether on the ground or in the Cloud or both, if you are choosing services as part of an overall strategy.

Myth #5 – Cloud computing is free, or at least very cheap

Most people’s first contact with Cloud-based services is at home. They sign up for a gmail account or download Dropbox. And indeed, those services are free.

But when you want to use those same services for your business, you are joining a different ball-game. Businesses need more storage space; they need to configure all their IT systems so that they work for different staff and departments; and they need ongoing support. If something weird happens with your personal email it can be annoying, but it’s not the end of the world if you are offline for a few hours. If the same were to happen to your business, though, it could cost you dearly in terms of lost sales or damaged relationships with customers and suppliers.

So that’s why Cloud computing services are not free for business users. However, in most cases they compare very well price-wise with buying, maintaining and upgrading your own server to keep in your building.

Myth #6 – Cloud computing is insecure

In our recent survey of small business attitudes to cloud computing, security was revealed to be the top worry, bothering nearly 80% of respondents. A third said that the fear of someone stealing their data was holding them back from moving to the Cloud.

But data held in the Cloud is no more vulnerable than data held in a physical server. Computer crime in various guises has been around for as long as computers themselves. In fact, because people are worried about the security of the Cloud, your data may be safer there than anywhere else. You typically need one password only to access a physical network – and because people have been logging on at work for so long, most now have passwords that can only be described as banal.

Secure Cloud-based services, on the other hand, require at least two passwords. Most services also impose rules which mean that they will not accept passwords that they consider weak.

Myth #7 – Cloud Migrations Can Be Difficult

As mentioned earlier, due to the success this industry and technology has seen over recent years, innovations and improvements to APIs, technological components and cloud-based processes means the idea that cloud migrations can be difficult is actually incorrect.

The detail is in the hosting provider. Are you working with an experienced hosting provider that has planned, strategised and executed cloud migration programmes for businesses of various sizes and industries? If so, that’s a great start. Experienced hosting providers have the experience to migrate clouds with as much minimal downtime as possible.

Myth #8 – Cloud Based Computing Removes the Need for IT Support

Small businesses would be forgiven for thinking that cloud-based computing will reduce the need for IT support and maintenance. Appreciating that businesses want to improve operational efficiency, and would want to reduce any cost wastage, however, IT maintenance will always been needed to help with the migration and management of data from your businesses perspective.

Cloud-based computing might shift the IT teams role from administrative and logical work to more strategic and consultancy specific actions for the business.