Barrier or Benefit? Study Challenges Cloud Computing Security Perceptions for Small to Mid-size Businesses

Any conversation I have with a customer that hasn’t yet adopted a cloud service includes the topic of security at some point. It isn’t surprising that security frequently tops the list of cloud adoption items; yet I believe it should be on the list of top cloud adoption benefits. A common area explored by organizations considering the cloud, small to mid-size businesses, or SMBs, often don’t have the built-in security expertise that larger entities do. This makes it difficult for them to spend time and expertise to assess the benefits of cloud computing. In commissioning an independent study with groups of SMBs that both use and do not use cloud services in the U.S., Singapore, Malaysia, India and Hong Kong. We hoped to evaporate, okay – more realistically – lessen, concerns about security for prospective customers. Our goal was to see what, if any, security benefits companies that use the cloud realize, and to better understand the concerns of companies that have not yet adopted cloud services. Respondents were not told about Microsoft’s involvement in the study and we did not make any qualification in terms of cloud services or products used. The U.S. results announced today (the other countries will follow over the next couple of weeks) provide a compelling security argument for the cloud:

  • SMBs that use the cloud spend on average 32% less time managing security than SMBs that don’t use the cloud.
  • Over the last three years, SMBs that use the cloud are 5x more likely to have decreased what they spend on managing security as a percentage of overall IT budget
  • SMBs that use the cloud are nearly 6x more likely to have decreased the total amount spent on security
  • 52% said that using the cloud enabled them to add new products/services that benefit their business quickly and securely.
  • When asked to choose from a drop down list of specific cloud benefits:
    • 35% of SMBs said their business was more secure.
    • 34% said they were more confident of regulatory compliance.
    • 32% said they worried less about the threat of cyber-attack.

One of our customers with a cloud offering from Microsoft, provides a good illustration of several of these findings: SkyWire Media—a small technology company based in Nevada. SkyWire Media helps other businesses personalize and distribute rich content to mobile devices. For SkyWire, and many other SMBs that use the cloud, removing much of the process associated with installing security updates is a huge benefit in terms of time, cost and improved security. Despite the importance of security updates, many businesses still do not install them efficiently, or at all. This happens for a number of reasons, such as cost and the lack of time, expertise and IT resources. In a cloud environment, we as the service provider ensure our cloud products and services are always current with security updates. In most cases, the updates are installed as soon as they are available. It’s good to hear industry experts acknowledge the economic benefits of the cloud too.  We talked to Ryan Brock, Vice President of Worldwide SMB Cloud & Channels, AMI Partners, about this study and he recapped it well: “Any solution that helps SMBs’ bottom line has to be good for them and the economy. When it comes to security, the cloud offers SMBs a level of expertise, specialist resources and investment that they cannot hope to match. This translates into cost and time savings and better protection against cyber threats, which gives them the freedom to innovate and grow their business.” Of equal interest to me were the responses from SMBs in our study that do not use the cloud. In contrast to clear security benefits enjoyed by their counterparts that use cloud services, 40% said that security was still their major concern, and 38% cited cost of adoption. 67% said that clear industry standards for security would make them more confident about adopting the cloud. The security benefits of the cloud are there to see. In addition to driving towards industry standards such as the Cloud Security Alliance’s (CSA) Security Trust and Assurance Registry (STAR), we must step up our efforts to help SMBs, and other much larger organisations, better understand the security benefits of the cloud so they can make informed decisions about the suitability of the cloud for their business. For additional information and materials on this study, please visit the Microsoft Security, Privacy and Online Safety Newsroom.

About the Author
Adrienne Hall

General Manager, Trustworthy Computing

Adrienne Hall is a General Manager in the Microsoft Trustworthy Computing group, where she leads a team of information technology (IT) professionals who are focused on the security, privacy, reliability, and accessibility of devices and services built on Microsoft technology. Read more »