ImageThe cloud has become omnipresent, casting its shadow over practically every aspect of business operations within every industry. No matter large or small, organizations are moving to the cloud to take advantage of the ease of management and cost savings.

Cloud hosting provides organizations with virtual IT services from around the world, with no hardware, installation, or maintenance costs.  The services are remotely managed and provided by a cloud hosting provider or dedicated 3rd party that is committed to keeping them available when necessary.  Cheaper, more flexible services are perfect for startups, giving them access to high-quality tools that they would not otherwise be able to afford or maintain.

More businesses are tapping into the cloud every year.  The 2013 Future of Cloud Computing Survey questioned 855 IT decision makers, cloud vendors, and business users, finding that 75% of survey respondents are using the cloud in some way.  Last year 67% said that they were using the cloud.  

Some applications of the cloud are being used more widely than others. In particular are business cloud apps used for social business/collaboration, file sharing, business productivity, and CRM/marketing.

The total global market for cloud computing is expected to reach over $158 billion dollars by 2014, up 126% since 2011.  The fastest growing cloud applications are expected to be managed IT services like systems management, mobile services, big data management, and security.

Security concerns are one of the main factors slowing cloud adoption.  Healthcare companies, businesses with private information and organizations dealing with confidential data have worked out complex systems to keep their data secure, and the cloud, being an entirely new system, represents a potential risk to that security.  Information distributed across several servers instead of being stored in a controlled location seems like a scary situation to many. In other cases, people are content with their current situation and see no need to change.  For medium and large companies, switching legacy systems over to cloud services can be a complex and involved undertaking.   

A recent Microsoft survey has shown that many of these fears may be unfounded, especially concerning security and network reliability.  94% of businesses reported that they saw an improvement in security after switching to cloud computing, and 75% said that network availability improved.  91% of respondents also said that their cloud providers were making it easier for them to meet government compliance requirements such as PCI, HIPAA, and FISMA.

These numbers show that there is a large perception gap between those who are still using traditional systems and those who are already using the cloud.  In the same study, 60% of small businesses who were not using the cloud were concerned about the security of their data, while 39% believed that they could not switch to the cloud because of compliance requirements.

There is no doubt that cloud providers provide flexible, high-quality services for often times less cost, and businesses who refuse to take advantage of this will fall further and further behind competition.