Microsoft survey of 211 small businesses finds half use the cloud and after early experience, find it more reliable, secure.
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Many small and medium-sized businesses fear the loss of security and data privacy in the cloud. Once they use the cloud, however, they find they are in a more secure and private environment than they were on their own premises, a Microsoft-sponsored survey has found.
Comscore contacted 211 small and medium-sized companies in the U.S., defined as having between 25 and 299 PC users, and a similar number in each of Germany, France and the U.K. By a narrow margin, slightly more than half had become cloud service users, while the rest had steered clear of IaaS, SaaS and PaaS.
All 211 representatives contacted were asked how they viewed the cloud -- prior to adoption, if they were among those who were now using it. Sixty percent said they had viewed it as insecure, 45% said they believe it would result in the loss of control over the privacy of their data and 42% were concerned about the cloud's reliability. The results paralleled many other surveys that found security, privacy and reliability of cloud to be the top concerns of IT managers.
Asked how they viewed the same concerns after using cloud computing, 94% said they possessed a level of security "that they didn't previously have on-premises," said Adrienne Hall, general manager of trustworthy computing at Microsoft. Sixty-two percent said the level of privacy protection increased in the cloud versus on premises, and 75% said they experienced improved reliability of service. In addition, 61% said the frequency and length of downtimes decreased with their move to the cloud.
Asked whether these results fit the Microsoft Azure cloud or cloud services in general, Hall said they fit Amazon Web Services, Rackspace and clouds in general, not just Microsoft's. "We could have done a Microsoft-only study, but it would have been viewed as self-serving," said Hall in an interview. She conceded that one reason Microsoft commissions a survey on SMBs is because "we're hoping studies like this will bring home the benefits of cloud computing" to prospects who have been among the most resistant to using it.
The canvasing of respondents was a blind survey, without Comscore knowing what products or cloud services the survey participants were using or the respondents knowing that Microsoft sponsored the survey. Comscore is the 1,000 employee Reston, Va., company that conducts surveys on the use of digital services, such as the question, will the Tumblr acquisition bring a younger crowd to Yahoo's site.
Many surveys have shown the concern among potential users about security and privacy but few have underscored, "a positive change after they actually adopted cloud services," Hall noted.
The study also claimed that among small business users of the cloud, the result was not simply a more agile and secure environment, but one in which cost savings materialized, as the implementers had hoped. Seventy percent of the cloud users in the survey said they were able to reinvest savings in new products or other parts of the business. Fifty percent said the time they saved on security was re-invested in new revenue opportunities for the business.
One way cloud users can compare the level of security in different clouds is to go to the Cloud Security Alliance's Star Registry and scrutinize the entries. Microsoft's can be found here. Not every cloud vendor has submitted what the alliance has attempted to solicit as a standardized report, pointed out Hall. Both Google and Rackspace, for example, have not. One vendor that has, however, is Microsoft's main competitor for cloud customers, Amazon Web Services.
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