Before 2011, a relatively small number of small- and medium-sized businesses (SMB) understood the Cloud and even fewer actually took advantage of it.

However, in the past four years, the Cloud has emerged in the SMB market, with 52 percent of small businesses in the US using cloud storage. Nearly half of these cloud storage-using SMBs adopted the service after 2011.

What factors contributed to SMBs’ wide-scale migration to the Cloud?

While no single event triggered this trend, understanding how SMBs use the Cloud, specifically cloud storage services, sheds light on not only its increased adoption but also the cloud storage usage patterns to expect in 2016.

Mobile Access to Data Stored on Cloud

Nearly half of SMBs use a mobile device to access data stored on the Cloud. And, it is easy to see why mobility is so important to small business cloud storage users: onsite storage systems restrict employees to the office, while the Cloud enables employees to access data on a mobile device or laptop, as long as an Internet connection is available. This means that employees can share, peruse, or edit files from home, the road, or a conference.

The ability to access data stored on the Cloud through a mobile device improves the accessibility of business-related information and increases work efficiency, according to Dave Linthicum, senior vice president of Cloud Technology Partners.

“The great thing about … storage as a service systems is that if I am on the road and someone asks me to answer  a question, I don’t have to wait until I get back home. I have access to my files directly on my [mobile device] and can give the person an immediate response.” – Dave Linthicum

As consumer cloud storage providers, such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and Apple iCloud, continue to improve their mobile capabilities, even more SMBs will adopt these services in order to take advantage of the feature.

Easier Backup and Recovery Capabilities

Because SMBs prioritize backing up files, cloud storage services’ data recovery and backup capabilities prove especially attractive.

“Cloud storage allows for a significant reduction in the total cost of ownership, as compared to the purchase and maintenance of robust backup systems. Small businesses can take advantage of cloud backup capabilities to save a significant amount of money.” – Viktor Bogdanov, head of marketing and public relations, Intersog.

Better backup and recovery capabilities not only protect SMBs in case of physical damage to the office from a natural disaster or fire but also reduce the cost of storing, backing up, and recovering data. Off-site servers ensure that important company files are not destroyed accidentally and do not require maintenance if a catastrophe strikes locally.

Standards and Regulations Improve Data Security

A popular myth implies that using the Cloud reduces security. And, media coverage of cloud-related security breaches, such as the Apple iCloud celebrity photo hack, exacerbate this belief.

However, contrary to popular belief, cloud storage service providers’ data centers are actually more secure than onsite IT equipment. Additionally, SMBs that provide home improvement services, offer niche tax advice, or sell specialty home decor, lack the wholehearted focus on data security that cloud storage service providers offer. Security is the primary focus for cloud storage services, and a large breach could ruin a provider’s reputation.

What can SMBs do to ensure their data will be secure when selecting and migrating to a cloud storage service provider?

It costs US businesses roughly $154 per file recovered after an online security breach. This sum adds up based on the amount of files compromised in a breach.

Because the risk of security breaches will not disappear in the near future, it is important for SMBs to ensure that their cloud storage service provider has an International Organization Standard (ISO) certification. Specifically, ISO certifications 27001 and 27018 contain strict rules regarding how private data is transferred and stored and demonstrate that a service provider can be trusted with your company’s data.

When you look at these three main advantages of using cloud storage – data accessibility, file backup and recovery capabilities, and data protection standards and regulations – it is clear why cloud storage is becoming a more popular option for SMBs.

Over the next decade, we can expect the amount of SMBs using the Cloud to increase. Forbes estimates that 78 percent of small businesses will adopt the Cloud by 2020. In the very near future, it may even seem strange not to use cloud storage in the business world.