Two-thirds of UK businesses are either currently using cloud-based applications or have already made the investment and will be rolling it out in the next year, according to recent research from Citrix.

Citrix polled its UK attendees, mostly IT directors and managers, at its Solutions Seminar back in mid September. With the majority of UK companies embracing cloud computing, 22 percent said they were already using it across their organisation, while 17 percent said they are using it in specific departments. 30 percent said they had already made an investment in it.

"Cloud computing has the potential to deliver a wide range of applications and data to the distributed workforce at low cost, and is clear organisations already see the benefits," said Chris Mayers, chief security architect at Citrix UK.

"Our definition of the term cloud computing is rather broader than just using Gmail," said Chris Mayers, chief security architect at Citrix UK. "Our definition of cloud is resources that you are using, that are not necessarily located within your organisation, in other words offsite infrastructure."

Citrix's research also showed that IT personnel are conscious of the security and management risks associated with cloud computing, although rather worryingly a small minority (13.3 percent) believe there are no risks associated with cloud computing.

A third of respondents believe there are security risks, and 22 percent said they were worried about loss of control of data, while 15 percent were concerned by lack of bandwidth, and 10 percent think it could cause problems with IT management and governance.

If data resides in your data centre, you can see and touch it," Mayers told Techworld. "When data is located offsite, there is a perception that is there is less control, but if that data is regulated in some way, you have to take this issue very seriously. You have to consider what would happen if your data disappeared, how you get it back again, but that is a fundamental business issue."

"Large sophisticated organisations already have this experience, but medium and smaller ones are going to have to acquire this expertise on how to manage this," he added. "For the operator that provides cloud services, they have to provide easy to use applications, with backup done automatically for the client. Smaller business need to understand the relationship between them and supplier. If you want to get your data out, what are the issues?"

And it seems that demand from staff for more flexible working conditions is playing a large part in the adoption of the cloud within the enterprise, with a number of companies reporting an increase in remote working or teleworking.

44 percent of respondents said that their workforce was more distributed now compared to last year, although 51 percent said it was about the same as last year, and 5 percent said their workforces were less distributed.

The biggest portion (30 percent) said that their reasons for working from home was for ‘childcare purposes or greater work life balance'. 19 percent cited ‘increased numbers of field staff'; 15 percent said there was an ‘increase in number of branch offices'; 14 percent cited a ‘change in company policy'; another 14 percent cited ‘improved technology provision for distributed workforce'; and finally 9 percent said there were ‘fewer security / bandwidth fears associated with providing access to data beyond the workplace.'

It seems that the UK IT managers are also convinced that demand from flexible working will increase, with 57 percent thing their workforces will be more distributed in a year's time. 4 percent felt workforces would be less distributed next year, 30 percent felt it would be the same as this year, with 9 percent not sure.

The majority of companies (42 percent) are also now able to offer their remote workforces the same level of applications and information as in the office (with appropriate security measures of course). 34 percent said remote workers had access to all applications, 20 percent said email plus basic applications such as Word and Excel, while 4 percent said remote workers only had access to email only.

But it seems that managing these remote workers is still proving to be somewhat problematic to manage, with 32 percent not knowing how they managed remote workers. 30 percent said remote workers were expected to visit the office regularly to catch up with their teams, 14 percent said they were expected to check in regularly via the phone and email, another 14 percent said remote workers were managed by results, not hours or contract time, and 10 percent said they use portal / online workspaces to share updates with the team.