By Neil Lathwood, IT Director, UKFast

Do we continue with the company server room and manage our technology from a single static location? Or, do we embrace the revolution that unshackles us from the desktop computer? Most CEOs and IT directors are ready to dip their toe. They don’t even realise they’ve already been there.

You’ve been using cloud services for years – whether you realise it or not. We’re so used to services like Hotmail that we never stop to think about where our emails are stored and now, Apple and Amazon are becoming the natural repositories for our music, films and books.

In the business world, the growing reliance on mobile devices makes cloud an ever more compelling offer for businesses. Many companies have already taken the leap. According to research collected by hosting firm UKFast, 80% believe they’ve seen improvements within the first 6 months. We may not yet throw all of our IT into the cloud but here are the top eight ways that businesses currently adopt cloud services.

1. Email – 46% of cloud users in the business arena are happy to place email in the cloud. We’ve had webmail for years and the move is a no brainer for business owners with a smartphone workforce who can be reached in the office or out-and-about at any time of the day.

2. Technology R&D teams were early adopters of cloud because scalability means they can develop and test projects cost effectively; winding up and down the capacity they require. 40% of cloud users apply the technology this way.

3. One key purpose for 38% of cloud users revolves around data protection. As we find more and more of it in the virtual space, every savvy IT manager is finding ways to back-up this crucial asset. Many are developing cloud-based disaster recovery solutions.

4. Using the cloud for collaboration is currently adopted by 34% of cloud users. This is set to increase though with 60% of SME owners viewing the cloud’s ability to improve IT collaboration as critically important to the growth of their organisation.

5. Salesforce led the way with 33% placing their CRM systems into the cloud. Allowing client data out of the in-house vaults was originally a large concern for CEOs but the advantages of availability and remote working have tipped the scales.

6. 31% have discovered that the elasticity of the technology makes it an excellent place to store data. Because information is such an asset to the modern business, we have plenty to store and usage is set to soar in 2012.

7. Software as a Service or SaaS is central to the idea of cloud convenience. 28% of cloud users are accessing our applications through a ‘thin client’. Alongside Infrastructure and Platform as a Service, SaaS is part of the fabric of the cloud.

8. Remote working is hugely attractive to business owners and the cloud allows them to deliver every element of the IT infrastructure into employees’ homes. As such, it’s no surprise that 24% of cloud-based businesses are adopting the virtual desktop.

For 50% of business owners, cloud actually means flexibility. It’s the biggest driver of adoption – above cost savings, which materialise in the short term. Dipping your toe is also just the start. 72% of companies already using cloud computing solutions are planning on moving additional applications to the cloud in 2012.

For most SMEs this flexibility means more freedom and increased efficiency. It’s a winning formula for any business that needs to tighten its operations in the face of recession. And, as seen above, there are at least 8 ways to get started.

To find out more about how your competitors are using cloud, read UKFast’s report on Getting Ahead in the Cloud or contact us at Marketing@ukfast.co.uk