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Research commissioned by Microsoft and published Wednesday suggests nearly half of organisations using cloud services have moved beyond initial pilot phases, and 32 per cent of enterprises articulating and implementing  clear cloud computing strategies within their organisations despite concerns around data protection and security. But the findings also suggest that pervasive concerns around security, while certainly a challenge for cloud service providers and enterprises, may also be a boon for other players.

The research, which includes interviews and survey responses of over 2,000 IT decision-makers working in business of all sizes in eleven countries reveals that over 45 per cent of those that participated claim to be well beyond the pilot phase of implementing cloud services within their organisations.

According to the research the biggest growth regions for both IT spending and spending on cloud services over the next two years will be South America and Asia, followed closely by North America. And hosted private cloud is expected to experience the highest rate of growth for off-premises infrastructure, accounting for 32 per cent of hosted spending over the same period.

“Hosted private cloud is a gateway to hybrid cloud environments for many customers,” said Marco Limena, vice president, hosting service providers, Microsoft.

The results suggest widespread concerns about data protection and security in the cloud, with about 26 per cent of participants claiming they would not recommend cloud platforms to peers or colleagues because of these concerns.

PRISM has also played a role in shaping respondents’ view towards cloud platforms, but not in ways one might immediately suspect: 39 per cent of respondents reported the allegations have impacted their views on cloud platforms in a positive way, compared with 31 per cent who claim their perceptions of cloud have been impacted negatively.

These results are, however, consistent with what Cloud Security Alliance executive director Jim Reavis told Business Cloud News in a recent interview – that PRISM has actually focused more attention on security and data privacy from the technology sector and beyond recently, which has the added benefit of creating a rising tide for all by encouraging users to be well-informed and stimulating innovation around security.

Rather than being a drag on their business, security concerns can also work to the benefit of service providers, explained Michelle Bailey, senior vice president, digital infrastructure and data strategy at 451 Research: “Our research shows that 60 per cent of customers would pay their hosting service provider a 26 per cent premium on average for security guarantees — and an additional 25 per cent are already paying for such services.”

“Security has emerged as the primary, and potentially most lucrative, cloud opportunity for hosters,” she added. “Hosting is now the de facto solution for ‘trusted cloud’ implementations, and customers are willing to pay a premium for assurances.”

Above all, the results suggest cloud computing is steadily moving out of its initial phases and becoming more established within enterprises.

“With this momentum continuing to build, it’s clear that we’ve reached a tipping point where most companies have moved beyond the discovery phase and are now moving forward with cloud deployments to deliver improved business results and capabilities,” Limena said.

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