Companies continue to be heavily invested in cloud computing, but they're also becoming more refined and savvy in the technology options they choose, according to a new study from CompTIA.

CompTIA's Trends in Cloud Computing study finds that more than 90 percent of companies surveyed claim to use some form of cloud computing. However, more companies place themselves in the non-critical use category (38 percent in 2016 vs. 27 percent in 2014), rather than the full production stage (33 percent vs. 42 percent).

The report reveals that the majority of companies have been using cloud solutions for between one year and five years. Just 6 percent claim to have been using cloud solutions for more than five years. Another 23 percent of companies have been using cloud for less than a year.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is the most heavily used service model (74 percent of companies surveyed), though Infrastructure-as-a-Service (42 percent usage currently) may become the fastest growing model over the next several years. Platform-as-a-Service (33 percent) will also grow as companies become more sophisticated with their development approach.

Data on application usage also suggest a greater comprehension of how IT is running – and where cloud fits in. For most applications there was a dramatic drop in the number of companies that say they are using a cloud solution. There were corresponding jumps in the number of companies reporting use of on premise systems; and of companies unsure of the way a given application is implemented.

Cost cutting has returned to the top spot on the list of cloud benefits, with large companies (500 or more employees) driving this sentiment. Medium-sized firms (100-499 employees) and small companies (less than 100 employees) are more interested in reducing capital expenditures.

What does this data mean for enterprise security executives? According to CompTIA:

  • Rather than taking a broad view that all offsite IT is cloud-based, companies are demonstrating an appreciation for the characteristics of true cloud systems. This refined understanding has led to a rebalancing of self-assessment around cloud activity.
  • Companies continue to find a wide range of benefits in cloud computing. Cost savings are a top benefit, especially as companies move from individual application migrations to overall architecture construction. Especially in the SMB space, this long-term cost savings may begin with a reduction in capital expenditures.
  • Cloud adoption progresses through four distinct stages—Experiment, Non-critical Use, Full Production, and Transformed IT. While most companies are in the middle two stages currently, there are still many companies in the first stage getting education and testing concepts.
  • Secondary migrations continue to be a major part of cloud transformation, with 46% of companies migrating between public clouds reporting that the secondary move actually required more effort than the initial project. Small companies face very different obstacles than larger enterprises, thanks to the scale of the problem they are trying to solve and the resources they have to apply to the problem.
  • Migrations between clouds or back to on-premise systems can be driven by security, cost, or feature sets.
  • Email, web presence, and business productivity suites are the most common applications where companies choose a SaaS route. Other applications, such as business analytics, virtual desktops, and VoIP, are quickly becoming part of a corporate toolbox as SaaS expands the ability to take processes digital.
  • “Rogue IT” is a concern for businesses and IT departments, but not necessarily because business units are acting independently. Nine out of 10 times, business units are keeping IT in the loop on technology decisions, even if the business unit is the primary driver because they define requirements or pay for the technology. The challenge is in finding ways to make this collaboration most effective.