Sergey Nivens - Fotolia

Cloud computing in Belgium: a grey picture

Organisations in Belgium and Luxembourg are turning to the cloud for their IT, but there are striking differences in the level of take-up within the region

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: CW Benelux: CW Benelux: May-July 2016

Some 44% of Belgian companies with more than 50 staff make use of the public cloud for one or more IT solutions.

Flemish companies are far more active users than their counterparts in Brussels and Wallonia, while Luxembourg, a renowned datacentre country, lags even further behind.

The findings were revealed in market research and database marketing agency Computer Profile’s annual survey of the cloud usage of companies with more than 50 employees in Belgium and Luxembourg.

The 2015 survey showed that 44% of companies use the public cloud for one or more IT solutions, which is a significant rise from 2014, when only 37.6% of organisations did so. The figure is also almost four times higher than 2011, when 11.6% of firms said they used the public cloud for one or more applications.

The survey also showed that 8% of the cloud applications used were software as a service (SaaS).

There are significant regional differences in cloud use within Belgium. More than half (51%) of the organisations in Flanders already use the public cloud for one or more applications, but only 36% of those in Brussels do so. And in Wallonia, only 25% of companies use the public cloud for one or more solutions.

Erik Van Gurp, business analyst at Computer Profile, suggested a couple of reasons for the regional differences: “The difference between Flanders and Wallonia, for instance, can be largely attributed to Office 365,” he said. “This most popular SaaS offering is accepted much faster in the northern part of Belgium.”

The difference between Flanders and Brussels may result from another phenomenon, added Van Gurp: “Many local subsidiaries of multinationals are based in Brussels. These organisations typically use their own privately hosted solutions.

“Flanders, on the other hand, is home to many small and medium-sized businesses, which are more likely to use cloud solutions than the larger multinational organisations.”

Read more about IT in the Benelux region

Perhaps the most surprising results came from organisations in Luxembourg, where only 16% are using one or more applications in the cloud. This is surprising because the country actively promotes itself as the place to be for high-quality datacentres.

Some 20% of certified European Tier IV datacentres are located in Luxembourg, according to official figures. And the Luxembourg government is keen to promote the country as a host for European and worldwide clouds. It is also the first country worldwide to promote guaranteed data reversibility.

So why does Luxembourg, which officially and actively promotes itself as a safe haven for cloud providers, appear so reluctant to entrust its own ICT to a public cloud? It is because of the nature of Luxembourg business, said Peter Witzenburg, independent consultant and expert in cloud computing.

“Luxembourg is still known for its financial and other activities that often require a lot of discretion and security,” he said. “These industries are less likely to entrust third parties with their data and ICT environment. Another reason may be the legal restrictions, because organisations in Luxembourg are not allowed to have their data hosted outside the national borders.”

Global and local providers

As far as suppliers are concerned, the survey revealed a healthy mix of local and global organisations. Accordingly, the top rankings are shared by global provider Microsoft and local provider SD Worx. The latter provides payroll and other HR services and has become one of the most popular SaaS providers nationwide.

Next on the list is another mix of global names – Salesforce and Google – and local HR SaaS providers – Acerta and Attentia.

When it comes to outsourcing servers, the Belgian government scores higher than any of the private industries.

Some 51% of government organisations outsource part of their server estates, with the construction sector close behind on 49%. Industry-wide, the percentage of organisations outsourcing has hardly grown since 2013 – rising from 36% to 37%. In the education sector, the percentage has even fallen – from 15% to 13%.

However, it would be premature to conclude that the Belgian public sector is an active cloud consumer. Only 35% of government organisations in Belgium and Luxembourg use one or more applications in SaaS mode, compared with almost 60% of the Netherlands public sector.

These figures do include cloud-shy Luxembourg organisations, but they also indicate a less cloud-oriented attitude in the Belgian public sector.

There is a different picture as far as outsourcing is concerned, however: 48% of the Dutch public sector outsources servers, compared with 40% in Belgium and Luxembourg.

Read more on Cloud computing services