By Max Clarke

Almost half of all organisations in the UK are already using some form of cloud service, with larger companies more likely to use them, according to the findings of the most comprehensive survey undertaken into trends by the Cloud Industry Forum.

The research, conducted in the first two months of 2011, polled 450 senior IT and business decision-makers in enterprises, small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) and public sector organisations in the UK; as well as 200 respondents from the channel.

According to the findings private organisations that employ over 20 people are at the forefront of the cloud revolution, as opposed to the small companies of 20 or fewer, or public organisations.

The survey also showed that the decision to migrate to the cloud is now predominantly taken by the head of IT, with 65 per cent of respondents, compared to just a quarter who said it was still the responsibility of CEOs / MDs. The opportunity of cloud services has clearly won over IT departments and is considered part of the wider IT strategy.

The research confirms similar accounts by organisations like Gartner and McKinsey that have seen the European market for cloud services mature more quickly than in other regions, driven by the combined effect of SMB participation and IT professionals including cloud within the wider IT strategy.
The overwhelming reason given for initially adopting cloud-based services is the flexibility that it brings to the organisation, identified by 53 per cent of respondents. Interestingly, it is organisations with fewer than 20 employees though who identified flexibility as the key issue for their participation (63 per cent of the sample).

Another of the more interesting statistics is that there is very little separating public and private sector organisations attitude toward drivers of cloud adoption. In both cases flexibility came out as the number one reason for the adoption of cloud beating cost savings threefold.

Satisfaction with cloud services where they have been adopted is, at 94 per cent, extremely high, and is leading the vast majority of current users to expand their use into other areas of their IT operations. This simultaneous move to a new type of technology-led business model is a rare and perhaps a unique phenomenon in business IT: after all it has usually been only the large organisations and enterprises that can afford to be the pioneers of new technology.
The current “big four” core cloud services are: email; back-up / disaster recovery; storage; and webhosting services.

While this by no means defines “the cloud”, it gives a very helpful indication of how the cloud is most popularly and effectively employed by end users, and interestingly this reflects more about IT back office services than the higher profile often given to vertical specific business applications, confirming that IT departments are also looking to make the cloud delivery part of their wider IT strategy to embrace on-premise and cloud solutions overall. A fact directly confirmed by the majority of participants.

Andy Burton, Chair of the Cloud Industry Forum and CEO of Fasthosts, stated:

“Over recent years the market has been primarily focusing on the cost savings afforded by cloud migration and yet, as the research proves, whilst financial benefits are achieved and do drive further investment from companies already using the cloud, it is the agility given to businesses to deliver new services, access technology quickly and to offer solutions that they did not already have that has driven initial adoption.

Interestingly, cost savings were only cited by 16 per cent as the primary driver for initial cloud adoption, however, this increase to 69% when organisations consider the drivers for further cloud service adoption and how they currently access technology through the supply chain,” he added.

Piers Linney joint CEO for Outsourcery, a founder member of CIF, said:

“The research clearly indicates that cloud-based services are being rapidly adopted by businesses of all sizes and across all sectors and, more importantly, is proving to be a great experience for those who have implemented the technology with 94 per cent of respondents expressing satisfaction. With only two per cent of respondents saying they would never consider cloud, it is clear that we are heralding a new era in business computing that will be disruptive for many of the existing providers of IT and comms solutions.”

Mark Cresswell, President of Scalable, added: “The evidence indicates that the cloud is affording businesses both large and small, both public and private, the flexibility they need to adapt to the ever changing business climate and that this is their primary concern, that fact the cost savings can materialise is a secondary benefit.”

Richard Chart, COO, ScienceLogic, commented; “The survey results are further proof that the benefits of cloud so long evangelised by vendors and channel alike, including rapid deployment, reliability, scalability and pay-as-you-go financial model, are being realized by organisations seeking to expand or change their IT capability to more efficiently and cost-effectively support their business goals.”
“This research makes clear that the cost message is still critically important. However, it is clearly secondary to end users as they contemplate the initial adoption of cloud services. This means both vendors and channel alike need to understand the impact that cloud is having in terms of enabling faster and more efficient change of IT capability and build that into their solution design and message to end users,” commented Ian McEwan, EMEA VP, FrontRange.

"The cloud has been in the media spotlight for several years, and many businesses see it as the magic answer to a myriad of operational challenges," stated Alberto Soto, Vice President EMEA at Brocade. "However, unless a well-considered IT strategy is in place, the cloud can cause more problems than it solves. Today, the way we work is very different than it was ten, or even five years ago. The networks of that period were not designed to be cloud-optimised so expecting them to cope with today's needs is deemed to fail.

This research suggests that companies are beginning to recognize this and that cloud-based strategies are being driven from within the IT department. Addressing the commercial needs of the bu siness, IT leaders can develop a strategic blueprint for a truly cloud-optimised network, therefore ensuring a successful deployment and a more agile business environment."