question cloud The Future of The CloudSoftware as a Service is expected to reach $7.5 billion in 2009 and continue growing into 2013 when it’s expected to reach $14 billion – according to a report from Gartner.

While this is going to be great news for all SaaS organizations from established businesses such as Google and Salesforce.com and newcomers like my own business, Glasscubes, is being in the cloud enough for businesses?

Thinking outside the cloud
The cloud is a great place for people to work, but for technology development to progress and meet the needs of businesses a much broader way of thinking must be adopted.

Businesses will continue to work from the desktop, to be blunt, there is a certain amount of security that having a door which locks and a hard drive which you can (all but). When you also consider that internet connections are not guaranteed for 100% of the time, to maximise productivity there will always need to be a trade off between cloud and local computing.

Integrate and consider the users’ needs
This thinking will push organizations into working with offline technologies more to deliver the best of both worlds. For online collaboration tools, while cloud based technology ensures collaboration is possible from any location, integrating with local systems such as Microsoft Office is already a requirement.

The other side of such integrations is that people still use pen and paper to work. So, delivering integrations with 3rd party technologies focussed on converting paper to digital, to enable handwritten documents or contracts to pass through local systems and into the cloud is also going to be a key element in the growth of the industry.

Enable freedom of choice through technology
Cloud technologies also have the tendency, and this is going to be the major contributor to the levels at which it grows, to restrict freedom of movement. Too many cloud based organizations offer very little in terms of escape routes. This is a major turn off to any businesses that are constantly being told that you have to have a contingency plan. Unfortunately putting all of your eggs into one segment of the cloud is as dangerous as not doing anything at all. There’s nothing to say that things will go so wrong that you have to change provider, however there’s nothing to say that a building won’t have a fire.

Mobilisation of the cloud
The final piece in the cloud is mobile technology. All business people have mobile phones. It’s just impossible to be without. While many traditional organisations may still rely on non-smart phones the trend will change. Having an internet enabled handset or a laptop with integrated mobile technology (as with netbooks) is only just around the corner. The mobile internet will speed up, however to be useful in this market, technologies are going to have be as slick via mobile as they are on a 100mbs cable.

Is it pie in the sky or really a silver lining?
The seamless continuity between devices, locations and daily routines is what will enable the growth which Gartner predicts to happen, and the brains behind cloud based technologies have to grasp this very obvious piece of news.

Ultimately cloud-based services are still in their infancy when you consider how far computers and services in general have come. There’s no doubt that they are here to stay as they offer something which all businesses can take something from. But no organisation can ignore the fact that technology is still the enabler to making things happen. As a result technology must integrate not just with other technologies, but day-to-day working practices to succeed. If it doesn’t, these new technologies may be pie in the sky rather than a cloud with a silver lining.