Worldwide SMEs will spend over £6.7 billion moving their data and applications into the cloud in 2011 alone, and that figure will rise by 12% annually, for the next three years, according to TechAisle. In the US, 1 in 4 small-business employees will soon switch tocloud-based services.

The cost-saving and environmental benefits of storing data and applications without the need for hardware or software, on a pay-as-you-go basis, are potentially huge. A recent Accenture study found that remote data storage can reduce personal energy costs to SMEs by as much as 90%.

And it isn’t just private-sector monoliths like Amazon that have discovered the benefits cloud-storage brings in terms of user empowerment. The NHS is now trialling a cloud-based service, enabling patients to access, control and update medical records inreal-time.

Yet, as increasing amounts of corporate information is moved into the remote realm of “the cloud”, accessible and alterable in real-time from any location, many UK and European SMEs and Governments fear the resulting loss of control and the potential for catastrophic data breaches.

We live in an age where people work remotely, which means they need access to sensitive information. This information is held on portable devices which often have insufficient protection against device loss, extending the risk of data breaches outside theworkplace. Digital Microtrends found that 60% of C-level executives, polled across the Eurozone, are concerned about the security of data stored across mobile devices.

Recent cloud-related security incidents serve to confirm these fears, demonstrating the capacity for data theft to wreak devastating effects on reputations, shatter public trust in Government institutions, and damage shareholder and customer confidence in some ofthe world’s biggest brands.

The Bank of America was left compromised by the exposure of sensitive customer information on stolen laptops, BP has reportedthe loss of a laptop containing the SSN’s of thousands of Gulf of Mexico oil-spill victims, and the NHS misplaced a laptop containing eight million patients’ medical records, illustrating the effect of data breaches on public trust in Government.

A recent Informatica study found 39% of financial companies had experienced data loss or theft. The FSA (Financial Services Authority) itself lost 41 laptops and Blackberries containing sensitive data.

The risks to business have been further exacerbated by recent regulatory changes. EU rules compel all companies to reveal data breaches to consumers, the FSA has levied heavy fines on Nationwide, HSBC andZurich International for data loss and the ICO now has the power to impose £500,000 fines for data breaches.

With the potential cost-saving benefits of cloud-computing rendered ever more prescient by the eurozone crisis and economic downturn, there is a dire need in the channel for security solutions to restore confidence in cloud services.

A joint study by Echelon One and Venafi revealed that 64% of global companies fail to encrypt any of their cloud data or transactions, increasing the potential of a data breach.

Yet, when allied with the right security technology, cloud-computing provides a golden opportunity for data security, which is currently being missed. Data stored in the cloud can be restored when the devices are lost and stolen.

Crucially, in a world of mobile consumer data devices where sensitive corporate information is scattered around myriad moving endpoints, multiplying the risks,data can be remotely deleted and encrypted. The ambition is to transform remote data storage into a business asset, giving organisations unprecedented control over sensitive information.

End point protection and secure cloud based data storage must be adopted by the European mass-market, to revolutionise perceptions of cloud-computing, transforming local and remote data storage from a security nightmare into a great opportunity for businesses to gain control over all their sensitive information.

The stakes are high; revolutionising the European outlook on cloud-computing, could enable European SMEs to catch up with theirUS counterparts in the switch to cost-saving and hyper-efficient cloud services, expanding the market for cloud-security solutions across both continents.