Apple, Google, and Microsoft Leading Cloud to 1.3 Billion Users

By | Oct 23, 2012

The technology research firm IHS Inc. (Information Handling Service) has released a study that predicts cloud-based storage subscription figures will skyrocket to 500 million users by the end of this year as major vendors like Apple, Google, and Microsoft push cloud popularity among consumers and businesses alike.

While technical definitions of the cloud vary slightly, IHS defines the cloud as a platform for storing, accessing, and managing remote data and business applications using computing and mobile devices.

Individual users account for the biggest portion of the predicted 500 million subscribers of which a majority use cloud services to access content from their mobile devices. This study points to the rapid popularity of cloud technology and IHS expects these numbers to rise to 1.3 billion cloud subscribers by the end of 2017.

Expanding Cloud Opportunities for Midsize IT

According to the recent study, tech titans such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft are leading the cloud market with diverse services, which are pushing smaller single-product vendors like Dropbox to lower prices in order to compete. The way such struggling smaller service providers react to this situation for attracting new customers will play into the hands of midsize firms searching for cost effective and varied cloud solutions.

Technology analysts see an opportunity for struggling vendors to benefit from this trend by offering differentiated services that go in line with the consumerization of IT, which has resulted in part from growing BYOD and virtualization trends.

According to Slashdot, some smaller cloud vendors like Dropbox are already moving in this direction by adopting a "freemium pricing model" in which entry-level services are free and subsequent service tiers are charged at competitive rates to make their offerings more enticing for cost-conscious small and midsize firms as well as individuals.

With regard to cloud cost and service quality, the future seems bright for midsize IT. However, there is a shift of cloud technology from a platform used primarily by enterprises to one used by individual consumers. This comes with a number of concerns, the most important of which is security.

Opening the cloud to consumers means that it would now be a primary target for hackers. In fact, the cloud is a hacker's dream; it offers unprecedented opportunities to steal or jeopardize data belonging to a vast number of people. The reality is that people store data in the cloud because such data is worth storing, and it is worth storing because it is important.

Since most cloud vendors offer products to both consumers and businesses, as security breaches rise in the cloud environment, everyone faces relatively equal exposure to security breaches. For small and midsize firms however, such breaches could be more costly since smaller businesses operate on smaller profit margins and are also less likely to retain customers after a security breach.

Therefore, midsize firms adopting or expanding cloud usage must have a cloud adoption strategy that places security at the forefront. Even in these trying economic times, IT managers at midsize firms cannot afford to reduce cost at the expense of security.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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