A new research report on cloud computing has found more than half of U.S. small- and medium-sized businesses are exploring SaaS solutions.

The AMI-Partners research, named SMB Cloud Services Practice, found 24 percent of medium-sized businesses and 12 percent of small businesses have an SaaS solution in place. Of those users, 78 percent of small businesses use a hybrid model - a mixture of local and cloud-based solutions - while nearly 33 percent use a pure-SaaS product.

The report signals SMBs are testing out the cloud by implementing a mix of local and cloud-based services rather than jumping directly into a full-fledged cloud service.

“Though cloud computing is seen as the next IT platform, the consideration of SaaS amongst SMBs as the next favorable cost-saving model is expedited by the macro situation we are in today,” said Yedda Chew, a senior associate at the IT strategy company.

Experts anticipate global SMB cloud spending to grow as high as $95 billion during the next four years.

A major driving force of cloud services is the current economic climate. The report found 77 percent of U.S. small businesses and 84 percent of U.S. medium-sized businesses are concerned with the current market conditions. The economic downturn has resulted in many companies altering their spending habits and looking for more cost-effective solutions that do not sacrifice productivity for savings.

Effective cloud-based solutions such as online backup and email management are useful products that can streamline companies’ business operations. AMI believes the need for helpful document management and archiving solutions will accelerate the growth and expansion of SaaS in the IT industry.

As businesses enter the budgeting season, many will look to scalable IT strategies to allow them to manage their spending more efficiently, the report relays. Cloud providers that offer hybrid models have the best chance of “breaking down the barriers of the potential 5.7 million non-SaaS U.S. SMB users,” said Chew.

Most industry analysts expect the cloud sector to experience significant growth during the next five years. Benefits, including scalability, cost savings and reduced IT burden, have convinced many organizations to explore new business strategies in the cloud. Rather than tie up the time of IT personnel with maintaining online backup and document management, companies can relay those responsibilities to a service provider; with the additional time, IT staff can focus on more pressing business concerns.ADNFCR-2553-ID-19931637-ADNFCR