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Microsoft Survey Finds Cloud Usage by SMBs Will Rise

Small and medium businesses are strong candidates to extend their use of cloud computing services over the next three years, according to a study released last week by Microsoft.

Based on a survey conducted by Edge Strategies for Microsoft of 3,258 companies employing 250 or fewer people, 39 percent of SMBs plan to use paid cloud services, up from 29 percent today, suggesting a 34 percent increase.

"What that's telling us is SMBs are starting to understand the value proposition of what it means to have certain workloads hosted or offered through a remote solution versus having it on their premise," said Monish Sood, marketing manager for Microsoft's communications sector.

The larger the company, the more likely they are to use paid cloud services. Fifty-six percent of those with 51 to 250 employees said they will use paid cloud services, while 81 percent will use any type of cloud services (paid or free). By comparison, 37 percent of small companies with two to 10 employees will be using paid cloud services in three years.

Among the most widely used hosted services are accounting and payroll, e-mail and collaboration. Currently, 14 percent of those surveyed said they use a hosted accounting and payroll service. That figure will increase to 20 percent in three years. Hosted e-mail accounted for 10 percent of current users, a figure that will jump to 14 percent in three years, and collaboration will escalate from 8 percent today to 17 percent.

Other services that are expected to show significant gains: data archiving and compliance services, which will grow from 5 percent to 13 percent; traditional file data storage and backup, set to grow from 8 percent to 15 percent; CRM, rising from 7 percent to 14 percent; Web conferencing, increasing from 7 percent to 13 percent; and file sharing, growing from 5 percent to 11 percent.

Despite these gains, traditional IT services will still remain dominant in three years, according to 52 percent of those surveyed, while 30 percent will use free services, and 17 percent will use paid offerings. Only 33 percent will only use a traditional e-mail client, compared with 26 percent who will use a browser, and 40 percent using multiple methods to access messages.

The primary reason SMBs are attracted to cloud services is that software will be up to date, according to 77 percent responding, with 71 percent saying access from any device anywhere is the second-most appealing reason. Cost came in third, with 63 percent saying the ability to save money is a key factor, and 49 percent said that cloud offerings provides access to services they couldn't get in-house.

Those that are not leaning toward using cloud services appear happy with the infrastructures they now have. Fifty-seven percent said they believe they have more control over the data if it's in-house, 56 percent responded that their existing infrastructures are sufficient for the next several years, 53 percent declared not knowing enough about cloud services and 30 percent said the cloud is too risky, more costly and not secure.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on March 30, 2011


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