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Public cloud uptake rises, but Europe still lags behind the US

Okta research finds the most popular cloud applications in all regions are mail, sales and marketing, social media and document storage

European businesses are becoming more amenable to cloud computing, but they still lag behind US firms in terms of public cloud acceptance, according to research.

Europe is about two and a half years behind the US in terms of cloud maturity, according to Todd McKinnon, CEO of Okta, which provides single sign-on technology and which recently published Business@Work, covering how its customers use the cloud. 

It revealed that the number of cloud applications being used within enterprises of all sizes is growing. Driven by IT consumerisation and shadow IT, businesses are now making greater use of public cloud services.

The most popular cloud applications in all geographic regions tracked by Okta are mail, sales and marketing, social media and document storage.

Differences start to show when Okta looked at cloud-based HR and expenses applications. In North America, 55% of its customers use cloud-based HR, compared with 23% from Europe, Middle East and Africa (Emea).

Similarly, 43% of Okta’s North American customers use cloud-based expenses, compared with just 16% of its customers in Emea.

From 2012, when Okta began tracking the trend, there has been a high rate of adoption of cloud applications in small companies (up to 249 staff). The median number of cloud applications in small businesses has increased from zero in 2012 to 15.

For the same period, large organisations with over 4,000 staff increased the number of cloud applications they deployed from four to more than 10.

Okta hosted a customer roundtable earlier in May at the start of its London conference to discuss its research.

Read more about public cloud adoption

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Changes in attitude to in-house IT 

Previouly, IT would have attempted to put a block on rogue applications, leading to people using their credit cards to buy cloud services directly, which can undermine IT security. However, the consumerisation of IT has brought secure internet-based systems into people’s everyday lives.

Train operator Eurostar began its cloud journey following the appointment of a new CIO. Andy Simmonds, head of IT infrastructure and operations at Eurostar, said: “Internet banking is now more accepted by consumers. If I can access my bank on the internet why can’t I access my company’s systems?”

According to Okta’s research, Microsoft Office 365 is the most popular cloud application used by its customers, followed by Salesforce, Box, Google Apps and Amazon SWeb Services (AWS).

Eurostar moved from running its own IT infrastructure to developing systems on AWS and Microsoft Azure. The Eurostar website and mobile sites are hosted entirely in the cloud, while the company has also deployed a number of software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools.

“We adopted Salesforce and Box and we are now migrating all our content into Box, to replace Alfresco,” said Simmonds.

Gas company SGN, which manages network distribution across Scotland and the south of England, has also tried to encourage experimentation in the cloud, with the goal to deliver more cloud applications to the business. Mo Ahddoud, CISO of SGN, said: “We want to be a cloud-first organisation in three years’ time.”

Ahddoud said the cloud enables IT to provide granularity to business customers at a level that allows them to consume services on a minute-by-minute basis.

The company used Okta’s cloud-based authentication to provide a security wrapper for these applications.

Simmonds also said Eurostar is deploying Okta for authentication to support the roll-out of Office 365.

Identity in the cloud

In fact, according to Okta’s research, the popularity of Office 365 is driving cloud-based authentication.

Phil Turner, vice-president, Emea, at Okta, said: “Since Microsoft has started pushing Office 365 there has been a massive uptake. The cloud now has a big tick behind it.”

Okta’s research found that in many industry sectors, companies use both Office 365 and Google Apps, but in most sectors the Microsoft product is still dominant. Finance, biotech and construction industries favour Microsoft, while Google appears to be strong in marketing companies.

Okta has benefited from the growing confidence of cloud within enterprises. A few years ago people had a misunderstanding of what the cloud meant. The IT strategy was not cloud-first, according to Turner.

“Now, many organisations are moving to the cloud and identity is everything. Some apps are absolutely core, like Salesforce, which holds customer data,” said Turner.


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