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By Todd Weiss

Cloud computing use continues its steady growth among businesses, but there are a few interesting surprises emerging, according to a new study conducted by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) trade group.

Out of all the companies using the cloud today, only about 20 percent of them are getting help with their cloud from a partner, the study reports. That on-their-own approach is intriguing since at the same time more than 80 percent of companies are using the cloud in some way, says CompTIA.

To my way of thinking, that means a lot of companies are pursuing the cloud solo, and even more significant – I think it amounts to a lot more companies than I would have expected.

So what's behind that statistic?

Part of it, says Seth Robinson, the director of Technology Analysis at CompTIA, is that small- and medium-sized businesses are probably hanging back and watching the early-adopters to learn from their experiences.

At the same time, though, many smaller and mid-sized companies are also trying the cloud initially using simpler applications such as email, Web sites and other relatively intuitive cloud-based applications where they don't need help from partners, Robinson said.

Robinson said that his organization was also surprised by the study results, figuring that more smaller companies would have been working with cloud partners. "My assumption would have been that because they didn’t have as much IT experience that they'd want an outside partner. But based on the survey results, because they are using something simple like Google Docs on the cloud, they aren’t so far trying to do something complicated that requires help."

That will likely change as they use the cloud more heavily.

"It's easy to go out to the cloud today and get software applications," he said. "So you’ve got lots of companies that – even if they don’t have a lot of technology experience -- are reaching out and trying the cloud. Over the next few years, I think they're going to be wanting to move their mission-critical applications to the cloud based on those early experiences," and that's when they'll likely be looking for help from partners with more experience.

So far, cloud vendors are hiding much of the complexity of the cloud from end users to make things easier for customers, so companies today might think they can handle the cloud on their own, said Robinson.

"Companies need to keep that in mind as they are getting further and further into their use of the cloud," he said. "This notion of having an IT environment that utilizes cloud resources is going to be one that companies are going to have to consider. And that means they may have to have IT staff or an outside partner to solve some of that complexity if it occurs."

The 59-page report, titled "CompTIA’s 3rd Annual Trends in Cloud Computing" study, was released this week and includes data collected from interviews with 500 end user customers and more than 400 technology businesses.

"More than eight in 10 companies currently use some form of cloud solution; and more than half plan to increase cloud investments by 10 percent or more in 2012," CompTIA reported in a statement.

What also is likely to continue are policy and procedural changes inside IT departments as well as broad, corporate-wide changes as cloud computing reshapes how technology is done inside companies, according to the study. "For example, as more lines of business attempt to procure and maintain their own cloud solutions, policies regarding security, use of company data and mobile devices need to be addressed."

All of this makes me wonder, where do HPIO readers fit in this question? Is your company working on cloud projects solo or with the help of a cloud partner?

I'd love to hear your thoughts for a future blog post.

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