Head in the Cloud: Companies Moving Toward Cloud Computing Despite Privacy Concerns

By Gerard Longo, Assistant Editor — July 23, 2012

Research conducted by Microsoft shows an increasing emphasis on cloud computing in small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

The study found that 65 percent of the 769 United States privacy professionals surveyed feel that cloud computing is "important" or "essential" to their company, while a larger number (81%) feel that it will become important within the next two years.

However, there is still a reasonable amount of concern about cloud privacy policies, which factor into the cloud-purchasing decisions of 59 percent of SMBs in the United States. Important matters of privacy amongst these companies, according to the study, include transparency about the location of company data, segregation of data between customers and an agreement to refrain from using cloud data for advertising purposes.

The survey results indicate that, while SMBs are cautious when choosing a cloud provider, their concerns do not stop them from moving their data to the cloud.

"Not long ago, the IT industry wondered if privacy concerns would prevent small and midsize companies from moving to the cloud. Our research indicates that is not the case," said Brendon Lynch, the Chief Privacy Officer of Microsoft Trustworthy Computing. "Instead, SMBs are expressing their interest in data protection by using it as a way to evaluate potential cloud providers."

Cloud providers are also expected by the majority of SMBs (59%) to provide privacy provisions at the contract negotiation and legal review stages, as well as proof of compliance (51%). A self-assessment checklist is also an important privacy measure, ranked as such amongst 43 percent of those surveyed.

"It’s encouraging to hear SMBs asking the right questions of cloud providers," said Jim Reavis, Executive Director of the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA). "The CSA considers clear service-level agreements, proof of compliance and self-assessment checklists as best practices for conscientious cloud providers."

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