Almost four in 10 small and medium-sized enterprise (SMEs) expect to be buying cloud-based IT and network services, according to research by Microsoft.
In its latest global survey, SME Cloud Adoption Study 2011, the firm found that 39% of SMEs expect to be paying for cloud services within three years. This was a third up from 2010. It also found that the number of cloud services SMEs pay for will nearly double to 3.3 in most countries over the next three years.
The trend was an opportunity for local hosting service providers to offer collaboration, data storage and backup, or business-class email, Microsoft says. Some 82% of SMEs said buying cloud services from a provider with local presence was critical or important.
The larger the business, the more likely it is to pay for cloud services, Microsoft says. It found 56% of firms with 51 to 250 employees would pay for an average of 3.7 services within three years.
The survey suggested that 43% of IT workloads will become paid cloud services, but 28% would stay on-premises, and 29% would be free or bundled with other services.
Microsoft expects SMEs to shift to cloud services as they refresh their technology. This opens the way for value added resellers and systems integrators to both advise on and provide cloud-based services, says the supplier.
The survey says SMEs' perception of themselves as "growth" or "profit" companies has little effect on their plans to adopt cloud computing.
"Growth companies want a scalable environment that can meet their expanding needs, with an affordable, pay-as-you-go pricing model that eliminates the need for over-investment in IT. SMEs that want to maintain their size, but want to become more profitable, seek cost-effective, efficient solutions that match their needs for predictability and low overhead cost," Microsoft said in a statement.
The study found that SMEs interested in software as a service (SaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) were larger, more growth-oriented and more interested in services such as unified communications and remote desktop support.
The research questioned 3,258 SMEs that employ up to 250 employees in 16 countries. The study was designed and conducted in conjunction with Edge Strategies in December 2010.