Cloud computing - statistics on the use by enterprises
Data extracted in January 2021.
Planned article update: January 2023.
Use of cloud computing services, 2018 and 2020
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, provided via the internet by third parties.
Use of cloud computing: highlights
- 36 % of EU enterprises used cloud computing in 2020, 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.
- Compared with 2018, the use of cloud computing increased by 12 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 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 2020, this applied to almost all EU enterprises (98 %) with 10 or more persons employed. Although the proportion of firms with internet access was at similar near saturation levels in most Member States, more than one in three (36 %) reported that they used cloud computing services (see Figure 1).
Significant differences can be observed across countries. In Finland (75 %), Sweden (70 %) and Denmark (67 %) at least 60 % of enterprises used cloud computing. On the other hand, in Greece (17 %), Romania (16 %) and Bulgaria (11 %) less than 20 % of enterprises did so.
Of the enterprises that reported using cloud computing, some 76 % 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. Two out of three enterprises (67 %) using the cloud used it for storing files. Some 47 % used it to host their database, while 58 % reported using it for office software (e.g. word processors, spreadsheets, etc.).
Most importantly, via the cloud, enterprises have access to relatively more advanced end customer software applications, e.g. for finances/accounting and managing information about their customers (customer relationship management – CRM) (45 % and 27 % respectively). In addition, 24 % 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 (71 %) was in the information and communication sector, while in almost all other economic sectors the percentage ranged from 27 % to 43 % (see Figure 2). ‘Professional, scientific and technical’ firms came in between, with 53 % reporting that they used the cloud. Compared with 2018, the increase in the use of cloud computing was highest in the manufacturing sector (+19 percentage points), followed by the professional, scientific and technical sector and the real estate sector (both +14pp).
The use of cloud computing was particularly high in large enterprises where more than three fifth (65 %) used it in 2020, i.e. an increase of 12 percentage points compared with 2018. In 2020, less than 50 % of small and of medium-sized enterprises used cloud computing (33 % and 46 % respectively), although since 2018 for both categories an increase by 12 percentage points was recorded (figure 3).
Figure 4 shows the comparison between 2018 and 2020 in the use of cloud services by purpose. In 2020, the use of cloud for e-mail and storage of files is still predominant. The use of office software on the cloud has recorded the highest growth (+10pp) since 2018 among all purposes. Among the more sophisticated purposes of cloud services a higher growth, by 8 percentage points, was recorded for the use of cloud financial and accounting software applications, while the CRM software applications and computing power recorded smaller changes (-1pp and +3pp respectively).
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:
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).
36 % of EU enterprises reported using the cloud and a relatively high proportion (21 % 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 5).
Compared with 2018, the increase in the high level dependence on cloud computing was highest in Estonia (+22pp), Italy (+21pp) and Sweden (+17pp) (see Figure 6).
In 2020, among enterprises that used cloud computing services, 59 % were ‘highly dependent’, while 38 % were classified in the ‘upper-medium’ level (see Figure 7). At the two extremes, more than 40 % of enterprises in the manufacturing sector (45 %) and in construction (42 %) belonged to the upper-medium dependence group with the high level dependence on cloud in those sectors only slightly above 50 %, while in information and communication the majority (74 %) reported using advanced services and hence belonged to the high dependence group.
The degree of dependence on cloud computing was almost the same among enterprises using cloud computing regardless of their size. The advanced cloud computing services were used by 62 % of large enterprises that used cloud computing services compared to 59 % of small enterprises that used cloud computing services (Figure 8).
Source data for tables and graphs
The data in this article are based on the results of the 2018 and 2020 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 2020, 146 000 of the 1.5 million enterprises in the EU-27 were surveyed. Of the 1.5 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 may have since been updated.
A Europe fit for the digital age is a major priority of the European Commission. The strategy is built on three pillars: (1) Technology that works for the people; (2) A fair and competitive digital economy; (3) An open, democratic and sustainable society.
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. The Digital Services Act and European data strategy aim to enable and facilitate a 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.
- ICT usage in enterprises (isoc_e)
- Summary of EU aggregates (isoc_ci_eu_en2)
- E-business (isoc_eb)
- Cloud computing services (isoc_cicce_use)
- E-business (isoc_eb)
- ICT usage and e-commerce in enterprises (ESMS metadata file — isoc_e_esms)
- Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 of 21 April 2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
- Summaries of EU legislation: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 (EU) 2016/2015 of 17 November 2016 implementing Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
- Regulation (EU) 2017/1515 of 31 August 2017 implementing Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
- Regulation (EU) 2018/1798 of 21 November 2018 implementing Regulation (EC) No 808/2004 concerning Community statistics on the information society
- Regulation (EU) 2019/1910 of 7 November 2019 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
- Summaries of EU legislation: EU production system — statistical units