But Microsoft insists the cloud can cure a bleeding wallet, a perennial concern among small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs).
The company's Trustworthy Computing Division recently surveyed SMBs--companies with between 100 and 250 PCs, some who use cloud computing, and some who don't--in the United States, India, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore.
Among the U.S. organizations surveyed--93 cloud, 94 non-cloud--Microsoft found that SMBs relying on cloud services feel three to five times better about IT costs, IT value, and IT security than those who shun the cloud.
But it's more than a feeling: Microsoft's cloud-using respondents report spending 32% less time managing security than those who don't use cloud services.
[ Get a roadmap for your move to the cloud. See Anatomy Of An All-Cloud SMB. ]
"The security benefits of the cloud are there to see," said Adrienne Hall, general manager of Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Group, in a blog post.
In the past three years, according to Microsoft's findings, SMBs in the U.S. that favor cloud services were five times more likely than their tradition-minded counterparts to have decreased their managed security spending as a percentage of their overall IT budget. And they were six times more likely to have reduced IT security spending overall.
Among cloud-positive SMBs, 45% reported easier systems integration, 38% reported spending less time managing security, 35% said they believed their business was more secure, and 34% expressed more confidence in their company's regulatory compliance.
Thomas Castleberry, chief operating officer of SkyWire Media, said in an email that his company had previously used a variety of Windows update services and anti-malware products. Each such system required its own server, software license, support contract, and IT administrator, he explained.
SkyWire Media also had different Microsoft Office and Outlook versions, which Castleberry characterized as "a bit of a headache." By selecting Intune, he said, "we were able to take a unified approach to deploying software, removing unwarranted software, and creating a reliable communications platform."
"We were additionally able to repurpose the hardware (or eliminate it all together), and reassign an IT person to other internal development projects, decreasing the need to hire an additional staff member, and reducing our overall IT overhead while improving our ability to service our internal customers," Castleberry said.
The net result, according to Castleberry, was more than $90,000 in equipment and personnel savings.
Gartner concurs about the benefits of the cloud, sort of. The research consultancy has concluded that cloud computing can be more secure than on-premises software, sometimes. A recent security survey by Alert Logic offers a similar assessment. The cloud has a lot to recommend it, but it's not a panacea for every IT concern.
High-profile breaches against cloud-based services have forced tougher security and closer scrutiny of what to put in the cloud. In our Dark Side Of The Cloud report, we explain the risks. (Free registration required.)