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SMBs Find Security, Reliability Benefits in Cloud: Survey

Small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) remain concerned about the security, privacy, and reliability of cloud applications, but they quickly see the benefits once they make the actual jump, according to a Microsoft survey.

In a study looking at how small and medium-sized businesses viewed security, privacy, and reliability in the cloud, 94 percent of US businesses said their security had improved after adopting cloud applications, Tim Rains, director of the Trustworthy Computing group at Microsoft, told SecurityWeek. The improvements included staying up-to-date with patches, better anti-spam filters, and up-to-date antivirus protection.

However there was a clear gap between the perceptions of those not using the cloud, with the real experiences of those already invested in a cloud service, Rains said. Nearly 60 percent of SMBs not using cloud applications were concerned about data security. About 42 percent of SMBs who haven't moved to the cloud said they were concerned about reliability.

Cloud Computing Benefits to SMBsWhat SMBs were worried about when it came to security, privacy, and reliability of the cloud contradicted the actual experiences after adopting the cloud, Rains said.

Of the businesses using on-premise products, 45 percent were concerned that using the cloud would result in less control over their data, Rains said. In contrast, 62 percent of cloud-adopters said their levels of privacy protection increased.

About 32 percent of the on-premise respondents would be more likely to consider cloud adoption if there were industry standards for cloud security, according to the survey.

Three-quarters of the businesses said service availability improved since moving to the cloud. About 73 percent said they were more confident in the integrity of their data using the cloud service. Nearly all, or 91 percent, of the SMBs using the cloud said their cloud provider made it easier for them to satisfy compliance requirements. This is in stark contrast to the 39 percent of on-premise users who said compliance requirements barred them from using cloud applications.

Approximately half of the businesses who were using software-as-a-service said they saved time managing IT, and 43 percent said they wished they'd made the jump to the cloud sooner.

"At the risk of sounding somewhat corny, we found several silver linings in the realities of people’s experiences after moving to a cloud solution," Adrienne Hall, general manager of the Trustworthy Computing group at Microsoft, wrote on the TwC blog.

About 70 percent of cloud adopters said they had reinvested the savings in other areas, such as product development and innovation, marketing, and expanding into new markets, Microsoft said.

The study looked at businesses in four geographic areas, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. From each region, a little over 100 businesses who were using the cloud, and 100 who were not, were asked to discuss their perceptions of cloud.

Rains said the responses across geographies were surprisingly consistent.

The study was a double blind study; Microsoft does not know what cloud platforms the respondents used and the respondents did not know it was a Microsoft-commissioned study. Market research company comScore conducted the study.

Microsoft also released an updated version of its free Cloud Security Readiness Tool, which now covers industry standards including European Network and Information Security Agency Information Assurance Framework (ENISA IAF) and British Standards Institution (BSI).

The results from the cloud trust study can be found here in PDF format.

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Fahmida Y. Rashid is a Senior Contributing Writer for SecurityWeek. She has experience writing and reviewing security, core Internet infrastructure, open source, networking, and storage. Before setting out her journalism shingle, she spent nine years as a help-desk technician, software and Web application developer, network administrator, and technology consultant.