Small Business IT Pros Say Cloud Services are the Norm

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted March 16, 2016

Cloud computing concerns have practically evaporated, suggests a new cloud adoption report from Spiceworks, the helpdesk software provider and small business IT community.

A whopping 93 percent of organizations use at least one cloud service, according to a survey of 343 IT professionals from North America and the EMEA region (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) representing a mix of small and midsized businesses (SMBs) and enterprises. A third of respondents said that within the next two to three years, they expect that half of their IT services will be cloud-based.

The hand-wringing is over, according to Peter Tsai, an IT analyst at Spiceworks.

Fittingly, on Amazon Web Service's(AWS) 10th birthday, Tsai told Small Business Computing that the cloud, once viewed with skepticism by IT administrators, has evolved as a trusted source for IT services and software.

"As with any new technology, there's initial resistance at first," Tsai said, referencing the early security and reliability concerns that once plagued cloud computing platforms and software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings.

cloud service providers; small business IT

"Now, a lot of people are talking about the converse," Tsai added, speaking anecdotally. In his conversations with the Spiceworks small business IT pro community, fellow members gush about the sense of relief they feel about not having to worry about the staffing required to maintain and secure their physical servers. There's little chance that an attacker will want to sneak into a "data center with armed guards," for instance.

The top three cloud services businesses use are: Web hosting (76 percent), email hosting (56 percent), and cloud file storage, sync and sharing (53 percent).

Small Business Flocks to Cloud File Storage

Among cloud file storage providers, "Dropbox is number one," with 33 percent adoption, said Tsai. "It's the official IT-supported solution" in many organizations due to its user-friendly setup and configuration tools, mobile support, and broad consumer adoption.

Microsoft OneDrive comes in a close second (31 percent), and may overtake Dropbox if IT pros get their way. "In the next year, IT pros are going to adopt OneDrive in much higher numbers than other file storage providers," Tsai revealed. Eighteen percent of respondents said they were considering using OneDrive, which integrates seamlessly with Microsoft's Windows and Office software and cloud services ecosystems, during the next 12 months.

Google Drive comes in third at 27 percent. It's a favorite among entrepreneurs and startups due to its rock-bottom pricing, scalability, and Gmail-compatible feature set. Google Drive lags somewhat in security, where it "isn't perceived as a leader [due to lacking] certain types of encryption and compliance," Tsai said.

Microsoft Office Conquers Cloud Productivity

A concern that Microsoft Office would stumble in the post-PC era has been laid to rest.

Office 365 ranks as the most-used productivity suite (36 percent) by a wide margin. "It's extremely popular among our audience," said Tsai. Businesses like the "use only what you need" model, along with a full terabyte of cloud storage per user and access to "the latest version of Office" as soon as Microsoft updates its desktop, mobile and Web apps. It also scores high marks for reliability and security.

Office 365 solves some major IT budgeting and management issues for small businesses. One-time outlays turn into a monthly recurring expense, which makes it easier for SMBs to fund and budget. And if an employee leaves, it's trivially easy to cut off access and reclaim the expense.

Those perks resonate with IT buyers. Twenty-three percent of those polled said they were considering using Office 365 in the next 12 months.

Google Apps for Work takes second place (16 percent), and Apple iWork came in a distant third with just four percent of the votes.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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