Small and midsize businesses are gaining significant IT security benefits from using the cloud, according to a new Microsoft Corp. study which shows that 35 percent of U.S. companies experienced noticeably higher levels of security since moving to the cloud.

In addition, 32 percent of survey respondents said they spend less time worrying about the threat of cyberattacks.

U.S. SMBs using the cloud also spend 32 percent less time each week managing security than companies not using the cloud. They are also five times more likely to have reduced what they spend on managing security as a percentage of overall IT budget, the survey found.

“There's a perception that security is a barrier to cloud adoption,” said Adrienne Hall, general manager, Microsoft Trustworthy Computing. “Yet when companies embrace and invest in cloud services, they find the benefits far outweigh previous concerns.”

Time and money spent managing security prior to using cloud services is being reinvested by SMBs to grow their businesses and be more competitive. The survey shows the following in the United States:

• Of SMBs that use the cloud, 41 percent said they were able to employ more staff in roles that directly benefit sales or business growth, 39 percent invest in more product development or innovation and 37 percent experienced improved agility and competitiveness.

• More than half of those surveyed (52 percent) said using the cloud enabled them to add new products and services that benefit their business more quickly and securely.

• 42 percent said the cloud made it easier for them to scale their business to explore new markets.

“Any solution that helps SMBs' bottom line has to be good for them and the economy,” said Ryan Brock, vice president of Worldwide SMB Cloud & Channels at Access Markets International Partners. “When it comes to security, the cloud offers SMBs a level of expertise, specialist resources and investment that they cannot hope to match. This translates into cost and time savings and better protection against cyberthreats, which gives them the freedom to innovate and grow their business.”