Cloud computing - statistics on the use by enterprises

Data extracted in December 2018.

Planned article update: March 2021.

26 % of EU enterprises used cloud computing in 2018, mostly for e-mail and storage of files.
Compared with 2014, the use of cloud computing in the EU increased particularly in large enterprises in 2018.

Use of cloud computing services, 2018

Cloud computing for business yet to go mainstream in the EU

This article presents recent statistics on enterprises' use of cloud computing services in the European Union (EU). In principle, cloud computing involves two components, a cloud infrastructure and software applications. The first consists of the hardware resources required to support the cloud services being provided and typically includes server, storage and network components. The second component refers to software applications and computing power for running business applications, as provided via the internet by third parties.

Authors: Magdalena KAMINSKA, Maria SMIHILY

Full article

Use of cloud computing: highlights

  • 26 % of EU enterprises used cloud computing in 2018, mostly for hosting their e-mail systems and storing files in electronic form.
  • 55 % of those firms used advanced cloud services relating to financial and accounting software applications, customer relationship management or to the use of computing power to run business applications.
  • In 2018, many more firms used public cloud servers (18 %) than private cloud servers (11 %), i.e. infrastructure for their exclusive use.
  • Compared with 2014, the use of cloud computing increased particularly in large enterprises (+21 percentage points).

Cloud computing as a service model for meeting enterprises’ ICT needs

Essentially, instead of building or expanding their own IT infrastructure (which would include hardware and involve developing and maintaining software applications and databases), enterprises can access computing resources hosted by third parties on the internet (the ‘cloud’).

In technological terms, cloud computing is a model for providing enterprises with ubiquitous, flexible, on demand access over the internet to a shared pool of configurable computing resources, including servers, databases, software applications, storage capacity and computing power.

Cloud computing can be seen as the technological evolution of server-based computing. The cloud/internet functions as an enormous networked server. Consequently, enterprises can use the services by accessing the internet using devices ranging from relatively low-cost desktop computers (‘thin clients’) to any number of various portable devices.

Cloud computing services should be delivered from service providers’ servers and, for the purposes of the ICT usage and e-commerce in enterprises survey, have the following mandatory characteristics:

  • on-demand self-service: users may request computing resources without human interaction with the service provider;
  • elasticity of provision: capabilities may be easily scaled up or down, e.g. in response to changes in the number of users or required storage capacity, so that enterprises can meet demand peaks without having to invest in infrastructure that will otherwise remain idle or underutilised; and
  • payable services (pay-per-user, pay-per-use or pre-paid).

In principle, the service providers may deliver ICT-related services from shared servers (public cloud) or from a cloud infrastructure provided for the exclusive use of a particular enterprise (private cloud).

Enterprises using cloud computing

As cloud computing services can be delivered only via the internet, enterprises must have internet access to be able to use them. In 2018, this applied to almost all EU enterprises (97 %) with 10 or more persons employed. Although the proportion of firms with internet access was at similar near saturation levels in most Member States, one in four (26 %) reported that they used cloud computing services (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Use of cloud computing services in enterprises, 2014 and 2018 (% of enterprises) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_cicce_use)

Significant differences can be observed across countries. In Finland, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Belgium at least 40 % of enterprises used cloud computing. On the other hand, in Romania and Bulgaria only 10 % or fewer enterprises did so.

Of the enterprises that reported using cloud computing, some 69 % relied on a cloud solution for their e-mail (see Table 1). Instead of setting up a server infrastructure for their e-mail system, which would have involved inter alia capital expenditure and maintenance costs, these firms opted for a cloud solution based on per-user operating costs.

Table 1: Use of cloud computing services in enterprises, 2018 - Source: Eurostat (isoc_cicce_use)

Cloud computing services may meet a wide range of other business ICT needs. Nearly seven out of ten enterprises (68 %) using the cloud used it for storing files in electronic form. Some 48 % used it to host their database, while 53 % reported using it for office software (e.g. word processors, spreadsheets, etc.).

Most importantly, via the cloud, enterprises access relatively more advanced end customer software applications, e.g. for finances/accounting and managing information about their customers (customer relationship management – CRM) (38 % and 29 % respectively). In addition, 23 % reported using the (usually high-performance) cloud computing platforms for computing power in order to run their own business software applications.

Not surprisingly, the highest proportion of enterprises using cloud computing services (64 %) was in the information and communication sector, while in almost all other economic sectors the percentage ranged from 20 % to 33 % (see Figure 2). ‘Professional, scientific and technical’ firms came in between, with 44 % reporting that they used the cloud.

Figure 2: Use of cloud computing services, by economic activity and size, EU-28, 2014 and 2018 (% of enterprises) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_cicce_use)

Compared with 2014, the increase in the use of cloud computing was highest in the information and communication sector (+19 percentage points), in the professional, scientific and technical sector (+16pp) followed by the real estate sector (+13pp). The use of cloud computing increased particularly in large enterprises where more than one in two (56 %) used it in 2018, i.e. an increase of 21pp compared with 2014. The increase for small and medium-sized enterprises over this period was three times smaller (from 18 % to 25 %).

Figure 3 shows the comparison to previous years in the use of cloud services by purpose. In 2018, the use of cloud for e-mail and storage of files is still predominant. The use of office software has recorded the highest growth (+19pp) since 2014 among all purposes. The more sophisticated purposes of cloud services (for financial and accounting software applications, CRM software applications and computing power) recorded smaller increases (+7pp, +8pp and +6pp respectively).

Figure 3: Use of cloud computing services in enterprises, by purpose, 2014, 2016 and 2018 (% of enterprises using the cloud) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_cicce_use)

Enterprises’ dependence on cloud computing

As regards dependence on cloud computing services, enterprises can be classified according to three levels (lower-medium, upper-medium and high) by combining the reported use of services as shown in the following table:

Use of cloud computing services.png

For this classification, all possible individual responses (in bold) are necessary conditions. For example, enterprises classified in the ‘lower-medium’ level will have reported using at least one of the services in (a), (b) or (c), but none of the others. Those classified in the ‘upper-medium’ level will, in addition, have reported using the cloud for (d), but none of the relatively advanced services in (e), (f) and (g). Enterprises classified in the ‘high’ level will have responded in the affirmative for at least one of the services in (e), (f) or (g).

26 % of EU enterprises reported using the cloud and a relatively high proportion (14 % of the total) reported using at least one of the advanced services ((e), (f) or (g)) and were hence classified as highly dependent (see Figure 4).

Figure 4: Use of cloud computing services and high level of dependence on the cloud, 2018 (% of enterprises) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_cicce_use)

Compared with 2014, the increase in the high level dependence on cloud computing was highest in Finland, the Netherlands, Ireland and Estonia (see Figure 5).

Figure 5: High level dependence on cloud computing services, 2014 and 2018 (% of enterprises) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_cicce_use)

In 2018, among enterprises that used cloud computing services, 55 % were ‘highly dependent’, while 41 % used none of the advanced services and were classified in the ‘upper-medium’ level (see Figure 6). At the two extremes, the majority of enterprises in the manufacturing sector (51 %) belonged to the upper-medium dependence group, while the majority in information and communication (71 %) reported using advanced services and hence belonged to the high dependence group.

Figure 6: Degree of dependence on cloud computing, by economic activity, EU-28, 2018 (% of enterprises using the cloud) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_cicce_use)

Types of cloud computing: public and private cloud

Service providers can deliver cloud computing services with all the above characteristics in two main ways: via public cloud servers (18 % of enterprises) or private cloud servers (11 % of enterprises). The latter, by definition, involve a single-tenant environment where the hardware, storage and network are set aside for a single enterprise. Consequently, the infrastructure guarantees high levels of security, as the service provider’s other clients cannot access the same resources. Some 11 % of SMEs and 31 % of large enterprises reported using private cloud (see Figure 7).

Figure 7: Use of cloud computing, by public or private cloud and by size class, EU-28, 2018 (% of enterprises) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_cicce_use)

In contrast, public cloud infrastructures are provided for shared use by multiple clients. Essentially, they tend to be highly standardised, with limited customisation options, e.g. an e-mail server can provide many firms with the necessary cloud infrastructure to manage their e-mail systems. Public cloud computing is reportedly used by 40 % of large enterprises and 17 % of SMEs in the EU.

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

The data in this article are based on the results of the 2014, 2016 and 2018 surveys on ICT usage and e-commerce in enterprises. The statistics were obtained from enterprise surveys conducted by national statistical authorities. The statistical observation unit is the enterprise, as defined in Regulation (EEC) No 696/93. The survey covered enterprises with at least 10 persons employed.

The economic activities referred to are defined in the EU’s NACE classification, Revision 2. The sectors covered are manufacturing, electricity, gas and steam, water supply, construction, wholesale and retail trades, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, transportation and storage, accommodation and food service activities, information and communication, real estate, professional, scientific and technical activities, administrative and support activities, and the repair of computers and communication equipment. Enterprises are broken down by size, into small (10-49 persons employed), medium (50-249) and large (250 or more).

In 2018, 158 000 of the 1.6 million enterprises in the EU-28 were surveyed. Of the 1.6 million enterprises, approximately 83 % were small enterprises (10-49 persons employed), 14 % medium (50-249) and 3 % large (250 or more). The data extracted for this article may differ from those in the Eurostat database where the latter have since been updated.


The Digital Single Marketfor Europe is a major priority of the European Commission. The strategy is built on three pillars: (1) better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe; (2) creating the right conditions and a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services to flourish; (3) maximising the growth potential of the digital economy.

The wider EU policy interest is in enabling and facilitating the faster adoption of cloud computing across all sectors of the economy; this can cut ICT costs and, when combined with new digital business practices, boost productivity, growth and jobs.

Cloud computing is one of the strategic digital technologies considered important enablers for productivity and better services. Enterprises use cloud computing to optimise resource utilisation and build business models and market strategies that will enable them to grow, innovate and become more competitive. Growth remains a condition for businesses’ survival and innovation remains necessary for competitiveness. In fact, the European Commission in the wider context of modernisation of the EU industry, develops policiesthat help speed up the broad commercialisation of innovation.

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ICT usage in enterprises (isoc_e)
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Cloud computing services (isoc_cicce_use)