The forecast: clouds gathering over Europe

Opinion by Allen Scott

Allen Scott, managing director of F-Secure UK & Ireland, dissects an extensive piece of global research into the cloud to discover the state of the cloud industry in the UK compared with Europe and the rest of the world.

Allen Scott, managing director of F-Secure UK & Ireland, dissects an extensive piece of global research into the cloud to discover the state of the cloud industry in the UK compared with Europe and the rest of the world.

With cloud services becoming the predominant form of delivery for content, sharing and storage, consumers worldwide are driving its rapid adoption. There now comes a divide between those services that are free and those that are paid for. Having trail blazed the concept of the cloud, the free services have a lead. However, this is waning in some regions, as concerns over the privacy of data begin to rise.

Realistically, we are still at the advent of the cloud phenomena, so which direction will the industry move in to keep pace with consumer need?

When it comes to cloud services of choice, Facebook is still the most popular site used to upload content. In fact, the top five sites for Europe and the rest of the world are the same. However, whereas nearly half of consumers (46 per cent) in non-European countries opt for Facebook, only a third (31 per cent) of Europeans do. In the UK, this figure falls sharply to a fifth (21 per cent).

Does this mean that Facebook's grip on the British psyche is coming to an end? Not necessarily. It is still the most used site for uploading content. It is just not as popular here as in the rest of the world.

Europe again lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to understanding the usefulness of cloud. Despite more than half of Europeans (55 per cent) wanting their personal content to be available via the cloud, countries such as Malaysia and Chile blow Europe out of the water with 83 per cent. Throughout the research, the USA, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Malaysia consistently score similarly and higher than Europe.

This begs the question, why? It is a matter of tech savviness and trust. Some societies have adopted the digital lifestyle quicker than others. They have invested their content into the cloud at an early stage of its development, whereas Europe is playing catch-up. There is nothing to indicate that Europe won't get to the same level of cloud saturation as countries such as the US, but it may take a different course to get there.

The problem of privacy

One of the starkest areas of difference between European consumers and those in other countries is when it comes to trust in global companies with cloud solutions, such as Dropbox, Google and Microsoft. Only 35 per cent of UK consumers trust these companies, compared with an average of 52 per cent across the rest of the world.

Underpinning this trust issue is a global concern that people are losing control of their content. Roughly a third of people feel this, though the figures swing from country to country. Complex terms and conditions have done little to reassure consumers as to what they are signing up to and what they are signing away. The backlash against Instagram's claim that it owns its users' content last year also created an undercurrent of fear among users and also prompted a battle for the user base with Vine.

Interestingly, the research shows that there is a direct correlation between the uptake of cloud services and concerns consumers have that their content can be accessed by unauthorised third parties. The UK market has the least concerns and the least adoption of these services to date. Non-European countries show a higher level of concern, reaching 82 per cent in Malaysia. This is likely due to the increasing value of content consumers are putting in the cloud.

Ultimately, security is at the heart of the cloud reservations among consumers, but it is also where differentiation can be found. People want their photos and documents to be as safe online as they are if kept in a shoebox under their bed. The reason cloud services appeal is that they bring accessibility. Europe can learn a lot from watching consumer habits in other regions that are further down the road.

Security concerns over cloud services should not rise as they become more reliant on these services. They should be falling. There is clearly a lack of trust that is stemming from a number of causes. Europe is in the enviable position of being able to rectify these perceptions now, before saturation. Granted, the Prism revelations have done little to foster trust with individuals, but this is also where the opportunity lies.

Prism is so important because it affects the global community. Facebook and other US internet giants are so pervasive in digital society that nearly everyone online is affected. This is the best opportunity that European vendors will ever have to promote and encourage adoption of their own services. However, it is clear that what the public wants and needs are secure cloud services. In an age of online services when customers can feel faceless, trust still goes a long way.


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