As more information moves online, a significant number of companies have moved their data storage to the web as well, opting for cloud storage and data management services like DropBox and Google Drive. But with news of hacks and digital break-ins hitting headlines each day, companies are not just choosing the cheaper option, but the option that they believe will keep them, and their information, the safest.
Digital IT platform Spiceworks conducted a survey published Monday on cloud storage services, speaking to 544 business technology professionals across North America and Europe on a wide variety of topics related to cloud-based data management. Of those surveyed, 80% said their companies were using some form of cloud storage system, while another 16% said their companies would do so within the next two years. Comparatively, in 2016, only 53% of organizations were using cloud services.
But a number of companies have already been burned by poor cloud security, with 16% of respondents saying their businesses' cloud service had been hit by security incidents, generally involving "unauthorized access, stolen credentials, or data theft," in the last 12 months.
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"It's evident organizations are putting more trust into cloud storage services, but some are still hesitant despite the recent growth in adoption," Peter Tsai, a senior technology analyst at Spiceworks, said in a press release. "Although cloud storage services often include features that help secure sensitive corporate information, there will always be risks involved when entrusting your data to a third party."
And one in four businesses agree. The survey found that 97% of businesses believe security is the most important factor in choosing a cloud service, and 25% of companies did not believe there was anything they could do to truly secure their cloud data.
That is where Microsoft OneDrive has an edge, according to IT professionals. Even though Dropbox was ahead of OneDrive in 2016 according to usage rates, revelations that year about a 2012 hack prompted many businesses to move over to the Microsoft service. Nearly 69 million Dropbox accounts were compromised by the hack in 2012, with passwords and login information showing up on hacker websites. Dropbox says that technically, the login information was encrypted, making it harder to use, and claims that once they discovered the hack, they forced all of their users to immediately change all passwords, rendering the stolen ones useless.
In this year's survey, 51% of organizations reported using OneDrive, up from 31% in 2016. Dropbox is now tied with Google Drive at 34% each, up only one percentage point compared to 2016, when it led the field. Another 10% of organizations said they would either be switching over to or starting to use OneDrive within the next two years.
OneDrive was particularly popular with larger companies, being used in businesses with over 1,000 employees 59% of the time. It also led the way at 54% among medium-sized businesses with under 1,000 employees.
Much of this adoption is due to how OneDrive is viewed amongst IT professionals. Tsai said in the release that 39% of IT workers identified OneDrive with security. But businesses also value ease of use, and despite high rankings for Dropbox in that category, many companies were already using other Windows services, which made OneDrive a more seamless fit.
"What can explain this shift, especially OneDrive's rise to the top (which is expected to continue over the next two years)? If you follow the dollars, the answer is clear. According to a separate Spiceworks data snapshot on productivity suites, more than 50 percent of organizations already pay for Office 365, and an additional 17 percent of organizations plan to within the next two years," Tsai wrote.
"Because 1TB of OneDrive storage is included per user with each Office 365 subscription, it makes sense that OneDrive usage tracks very closely with Office 365 adoption. As organizations want to do more with less, it makes financial sense for companies to go with OneDrive if they're already paying for Office 365."
Tsai said that as "bundling" becomes more common, OneDrive and Google's G Suite will be easier options for businesses, and standalone cloud storage systems like Dropbox may struggle to innovate and differentiate themselves.
The big takeaways for tech leaders:
- 80% of businesses now use cloud-based data management systems, and 97% said security was a top priority for them.
- Microsoft's OneDrive was the most popular cloud service for large and medium sized businesses.
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Jonathan Greig has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Jonathan Greig is a freelance journalist based in New York City. He recently returned to the United States after reporting from South Africa, Jordan, and Cambodia since 2013.