The Australian Computer Society released a draft discussion paper this week that asks cloud vendors and users how they can help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and not for profits (NFPs) become more confident in using the cloud.
"Despite the clear and compelling value of the cloud, SMEs and NFPs in particular appear reticent to integrate the cloud into their businesses and operations," the ACS said in the paper.
"The evidence suggests that this is due to a combination of a lack of understanding of what the cloud actually is, and secondly a lack of confidence in using cloud services due to concerns around issues such as privacy and security."
The ACS also cited a 2012 study by MYOB showing that four in five Australian SMEs refused to embrace the cloud due to a lack of understanding and worries about security and safety.
However, the cloud has potential to greatly increase productivity and innovation at small organisations, the ACS said.
"So any reluctance on the part of SMEs to embrace this new way of delivering online services will place them at a severe competitive disadvantage in the market, both globally and domestically."
The ACS hopes to deliver a protocol in January next year that will "provide consumers with clear and straightforward guidance on what to expect as a minimum level of service from providers, marketers, brokers or resellers without adding unnecessary regulatory burdens to either the cloud supplier or the consumer".
"The protocol should guard against excluding market entry, limiting competition or stifling innovation. It may also be that a protocol can help the market by increasing consumer confidence and addressing industry's preference for regulatory certainty when making investment decisions."
Senator Kate Lundy, minister assisting for the digital economy, praised the ACS for opening the industry discussion.
"It is important that business and government are in lock-step in developing consumer protections when implementing the National Cloud Computing Strategy," Lundy said.
"Once developed, the cloud consumer protocol will ensure purchasers of cloud services, and in particular small businesses, have the information, tools and safeguards they need to use cloud services confidently."
The ACS request for submissions this week follows the government's announcement of a National Cloud Computing Strategy, which is designed to help government agencies make decisions around whether to offshore or outsource processes. The government strategy included an action for the development of a voluntary cloud computing consumer protocol, co-ordinated by the ACS.
The ACS is seeking submissions on its paper by 5 August.
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