Statistics Explained

Archive:Cloud computing - statistics on the use by enterprises - 2016 data

This Statistics Explained article is outdated and has been archived - for recent articles on structural business statistics see here.

Data from December 2016. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: December 2018.

Authors: Konstantinos GIANNAKOURIS, Maria SMIHILY

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.

Figure 1: Use of cloud computing services in enterprises, 2014 and 2016 (% of enterprises) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_cicce_use)
Table 1: Use of cloud computing services, 2016 - Source: Eurostat (isoc_cicce_use)
Figure 2: Use of cloud computing services, by economic activity and size, EU-28, 2014 and 2016 (% of enterprises) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_cicce_use)
Figure 3: Use of cloud computing services, by purpose, 2014 and 2016 (% of enterprises using the cloud) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_cicce_use)
Figure 4: Enterprises with high level of dependence on cloud computing services, 2016 (% of enterprises) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_cicce_use)
Figure 5: Degree of dependence on cloud computing, by economic activity, EU-28, 2016 (% of enterprises using the cloud) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_cicce_use)
Figure 6: Use of public or private cloud, by size class, EU-28, 2016 (% of enterprises) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_cicce_use)
Figure 7: Factors limiting enterprises from using cloud computing services, by size class, EU-28, 2014 (% enterprises using the cloud) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_cicce_obs)
Figure 8: Factors preventing enterprises from using cloud computing services, highest factor by economic activity, EU-28, 2014 (% enterprises not using the cloud) - Source: Eurostat (isoc_cicce_obs)

Main statistical findings

Use of cloud computing: highlights

  • 21 % of EU enterprises used cloud computing in 2016, mostly for hosting their e-mail systems and storing files in electronic form.
  • 51 % 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 2016, almost twice as many firms used public cloud servers (15 %) as private cloud servers (8 %), i.e. infrastructure for their exclusive use.
  • Compared to 2014, the use of cloud computing increased particularly in large enterprises (+10 percentage points).

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

Essentially, instead of building 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 2016, 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, only one in five (21 %) reported that they used cloud computing services (see Figure 1).

Significant differences can be observed across countries. In Finland, Sweden and Denmark, over 40 % of enterprises used cloud computing. On the other hand, fewer than 10 % did so in Greece, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria.

Of the enterprises that reported using cloud computing, some 65 % 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.

Cloud computing services may meet a wide range of other business ICT needs. Six out of ten enterprises (62 %) used the cloud for storing files in electronic form. Some 44 % used it to host their database, while 41 % 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) (32 % and 27 % respectively). In addition, 21 % 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 (53 %) was in the information and communication sector, while in almost all other economic sectors the percentage ranged from 16 % to 24 % (see Figure 2). ‘Professional, scientific and technical’ firms came in between, with 35 % reporting that they used the cloud.

Compared to 2014, the increase in the use of cloud computing was highest in the information and communication sector (+9 percentage points), in the professional, scientific and technical sector (+7pp) followed by the accommodation sector (+5pp).

Figure 3 shows the comparison to 2014 in the use of cloud services by purpose. Even though the use of cloud for e-mail is still predominant, the highest increases have been recorded for the storage of files (+9pp) and for office software (+8pp), followed by the use of CRM software applications (+6pp).

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).

21 % of EU enterprises reported using the cloud (see above) and a relatively high proportion (11 % 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).

Accordingly, 51 % of enterprises in the EU that used cloud computing were ‘highly dependent’, while 46 % used none of the advanced services and were classified in the ‘medium’ level (see Figure 5). At the two extremes, the majority of enterprises in the manufacturing sector (57 %) belonged to the medium-dependence group, while the majority in information and communication (68 %) reported using advanced services and hence belonged to the high-dependence group.

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 (15 % of enterprises) or private cloud servers (8 % 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 8 % of SMEs and 24 % of large enterprises reported using private cloud (see Figure 6).

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 32 % of large enterprises and 14 % of SMEs in the EU.

Factors limiting enterprises’ use of cloud computing (2014 survey)

Enterprises using cloud computing services reported several factors limiting their usage (see Figure 7). The risk of a security breach scored highest both for large enterprises and SMEs, (57 % and 38 % respectively). Clearly, firms attach importance to the protection of their IT systems, but the issue can be seen in the wider context of resilience to possible security breaches when using the cloud. Service providers would be expected to take all possible steps to establish, and transparently apply, procedures relating to possible breaches of the security of systems and services intended for their clients. Therefore, from the firms’ point of view (regardless of size), the risk of a security breach may be a matter of service providers’ liability and accountability, as well as a merely technical issue.

Large enterprises and SMEs differed somewhat as regards other limiting factors. The use of cloud computing services may require specific ICT management skills, particularly to evaluate need and use management tools to gauge consumption of IT resources accurately. Therefore, insufficient knowledge or expertise may limit the take-up of cloud computing. One in three SMEs (32 %) using the cloud reported this as a limiting factor, as compared with less than one in five large enterprises (17 %). A similar proportion of SMEs (32 %) already on the cloud regarded the high cost of cloud computing services as a limiting factor.

Cloud services are often hosted in one country and consumed in others. Service providers may use data centres scattered around the globe hence enterprises using the cloud may feel uncertain of the location of their data. In addition, there may be issues of legal jurisdiction in the event of dispute and uncertainty about the applicable law. Both factors were reported as limiting the use of cloud computing, particularly for large enterprises already using the cloud (46 % for both).

Factors preventing enterprises from using cloud computing (2014 survey)

The majority of enterprises did not buy cloud computing services. In most sectors, enterprises reported that insufficient knowledge of cloud computing prevented them from doing so. Expertise and sufficient knowledge of contractual and legal aspects and the details of technical implementation are necessary prerequisites to an enterprise deciding to purchase cloud computing services (this also applies to firms already using the cloud – see above). In addition, the risk of a security breach was again a key consideration for enterprises in four economic sectors (see Figure 8).

Data sources and availability

The data in this article are based on the results of the 2014 and 2016 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 2016, 148 000 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.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Main tables


ICT usage in enterprises (isoc_e)
Summary of EU aggregates (isoc_ci_eu_en2)
E-business (isoc_eb)
Cloud computing services (isoc_cicce_use)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Other information

  • Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 of 21 April 2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation (EC) No 960/2008 of 30 September 2008 implementing Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation (EC) No 1023/2009 of 29 October 2009 implementing Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation (EU) No 821/2010 of 17 September 2010 implementing Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation (EU) No 937/2011 of 21 September 2011 implementing Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation (EU) No 1083/2012 of 19 November 2012 implementing Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation (EU) No 859/2013 of 5 September 2013 implementing Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation (EU) No 1196/2014 of 30 October 2014 implementing Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation (EU) 2015/2003 of 10 November 2015 implementing Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
  • Regulation (EC) No 696/1993 of 15 March 1993 on the statistical units for the observation and analysis of the production system in the Community

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