SMBs worldwide plan to significantly boost their usage of paid cloud services in the next five years, according to a new survey of more than 3,000 SMBs in 13 countries.

Results from the Microsoft SMB Business in the Cloud 2012 report demonstrate that the number of SMBs with 2 to 250 employees will triple by 2017.

SMBs Focus on Cloud Benefits, Not Dangers

About six in 10 (59 percent) SMBs using cloud services report significant productivity benefits from IT, double the 30 percent of non-cloud-users who say they receive these benefits. And 63 percent of SMBs using cloud services today expect to grow in sales in the next 12 to 18 month, with 55 percent believing IT will power their growth. Looking forward, 50 percent of SMBs say cloud computing is going to become more important for their operations, and 58 percent believe working in the cloud can make companies more competitive.

Considering these results, it should be expected that SMBs are displaying a relatively low level of concern about potential security threats. For example, the survey shows that about 20 percent of SMBs believe that data is less secure in the cloud than it is in their on-premise systems. Meanwhile, 36 percent of overall SMBs and 49 percent of larger SMBs think that data is as secure in the cloud as in their own systems.

SMB Cloud Trends Favor MSPs

In good news for the MSP community, other trends revealed by the survey suggest that MSPs are in an excellent position to deliver exactly the type of paid cloud services SMBs desire. More than 60 percent of SMBs indicate they do not have the resources necessary to implement new technologies and services, and 52 percent do not have the resources to get their employees trained. Furthermore, 56 percent of SMBs report a preference toward buying IT and cloud services from a single source, and 31 percent say it is critical for that source to be local.

A need for increased cloud services combined with a general lack of resources for implementation and training equals a great opportunity for MSPs with a cloud practice (and really, in this day and age any self-respecting MSP should be cloud proficient), to step in and lend a hand. Preference for a single source also plays to the advantage of MSPs, who can select best of breed cloud services and provide them in one neat package, and preference by almost one-third of SMBs for local cloud providers gives locally-oriented MSPs a nice leg up on IT vendors, telcos, and other big players who operate on a regional or national scale.

Of course, it is not enough for MSPs to simply make cloud services available to their SMB clients. They must make sure cloud services are available on all major platforms, including mobile, and also tailor services so they are delivered at a scale and price point within an appealing range for the SMB market. SMB intentions for cloud services make an appealing target, it’s up for MSPs to aim properly and hit a bullseye.