Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) that use cloud computing say they've seen increased levels of privacy, security and reliability, according to a new survey commissioned by Microsoft (MSFT), one of the companies identified as participating in the government survelliance NSA PRISM program.

The survey, conducted by independent research company comScore Inc. on behalf of Microsoft (before the news about the NSA PRISM program broke), showed a difference in perception between nonusers of the cloud and experiences of cloud adopters. Along with the study, Microsoft released an updated version of its Cloud Security Readiness Tool (CSRT). The free tool enables organizations to assess the security of their IT environment and compare it to what they could expect if they used a cloud service, according to Microsoft. The updated release extends the range of industry standards covered by the tool to include European Network and Information Security Agency Information Assurance Framework (ENISA IAF) and British Standards Institution (BSI).

Here's a look at the survey results. SMBs not leveraging the cloud said their top concerns were the following:

  • sixty percent cited concerns around data security;
  • forty-five percent worried that using the cloud would result in a lack of control over their data; and
  • forty-two percent doubted the reliability of the cloud.

On the other hand, SMBs that use cloud services expressed a greater comfort level with cloud. The following are some key take-aways from what they said:

  • ninety-four percent have gained security benefits they did not have with their former on-premises technology, such as up-to-date systems, up-to-date antivirus and spam email management;
  • sixty-two percent said they have seen increased levels of privacy protection; and
  • seventy-five percent have experienced improved service availability.

Microsoft Trustworthy Computing General Manager Adrienne Hall said in her prepared remarks that cloud often creates a gap in perception and reality.

"There’s a big gap between perception and reality when it comes to the cloud. SMBs that have adopted cloud services found security, privacy and reliability advantages to an extent they didn’t expect," she said. "The real silver lining in cloud computing is that it enables companies not only to invest more time and money into growing their business, but to better secure their data and to do so with greater degrees of service reliability as well."

The survey respondents were professional corporations with between 25 and 499 employees in France, Germany, the U.K., and the United States.