Cloud Security, Privacy and Reliability Trends Study: A Silver Lining in Services Adoption

Over the past five years we’ve seen many organizations benefit from their investments in cloud services. A number of factors continue to stimulate this momentum, including cost benefits, the ability to alter capacity quickly, and time back to focus on other areas of their businesses.

These return on investment categories are very important. However, there is one topic –security in the cloud – that is often regarded by some as a barrier to adoption. People also question the privacy and reliability of cloud services. Despite this, there are plenty of reports and studies that offer compelling information about the cloud delivering a trusted and dependable state for businesses – one that is positively contributing to their business success.

With the various cloud pros and cons floating around, we set out to cut through the clutter – to help companies in the evaluation and decision-making stages. Microsoft Trustworthy Computing recently commissioned a cloud trust study conducted by independent company comScore Inc. that focused on small and midsize businesses (SMBs) in the U.S, U.K., France and Germany. The study surveyed cloud users and non-cloud users and it was conducted blind — respondents were not aware of Microsoft Corp.’s connection with the research. Respondents were not qualified in terms of the cloud vendor, products or services they use.

The study had two goals:
o To better understand the cloud’s benefits relating to improved security, privacy and enhanced service reliability; better time management; and cost savings
o To better understand perceptions about security, privacy and reliability that act as barriers to cloud adoption

For the purpose of the research, we defined cloud users as companies using a subscription model service. For example: data storage, email or calendar and customer relationship management services.

We found some startling contradictions between the views of people that have adopted a cloud service and those that have not. As it turns out, security – in addition to some other benefits – is delivering a silver lining.

In general, across the four countries, this is what we learned:

SMBs that use the cloud achieve higher levels of security, privacy and reliability than SMBs that do not use the cloud. The study reported:

Barriers (non-cloud users)
Looking first at SMBs that have not yet adopted the cloud, the study found:
 60% cited concerns around data security as an inhibitor (barrier) to adoption
 45% said they were concerned that using the cloud would result in a lack of control over the privacy of their data
 42% expressed concerns about the reliability of the cloud

All of these barriers are factors that are holding these businesses back from a decision to move to the cloud, and thus holding them back from the benefits that can move their business forward.

Realities/Benefits (cloud users)
The study covers the actual experiences of SMBs using the cloud:

For security:
 94% of SMBs have experienced security benefits in the cloud that they didn’t previously have with their former on-premise technology approach, such as keeping systems up-to-date, spam email management and up-to-date antivirus

On privacy:
 62% of respondents said that their levels of privacy protection increased as a result of moving to the cloud

On the topic of reliability:
 75% of SMBs said they experienced improved service availability since moving to the cloud

This is a big perception change post-adoption. SMBs that use the cloud are also realizing better levels of support when the unexpected occurs. The findings show that SMBs running a business application in the cloud are experiencing better service availability and support during outages than their non-cloud counterparts.

For example:
 61% of SMBs said both the frequency and length of downtime has decreased since moving to the cloud

We know that reliability and service availability are paramount to keeping businesses rolling so these findings are key. There’s a perception that security, privacy and reliability are barriers to cloud adoption, yet when companies embrace the cloud they find the benefits far outweigh previous concerns.

All of these benefits – better security and privacy protections, and enhanced reliability – translate into time and money savings. Savings that organizations can reinvest in the areas most important to their business.

For example, the study showed that, as a result of moving to the cloud:
 70% of SMBs have reinvested the money they saved in areas such as product development and innovation, demand creation and expansion into new markets
 50% of SMBs have pursued new opportunities because of the time they saved managing security

In sharing these findings, we’re hoping to help bridge the cloud perception gap for businesses. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share more insights from the study findings in France, Germany and the U.K. Let me know about your experience with the cloud and share what you think about the cloud trust study via comments below.

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 »