Came across an interesting item the other day from David Senf of IDC Canada. He’s posted a TweetPhoto of a tag cloud from a recent IDC cloud computing study. Beside the two most predictable words (“internet” and “virtual”), it’s interesting to see how high “security, scalable” and “unfamiliar” ranked.

I often hear these words when speaking about our Software + Services vision, which is hardly surprising. Any serious conversation about the value of IT to an organization has to account for security and scalability. They are crucial to achieving the right return on investment. In this sense, cloud computing requires the same amount of due diligence as any other strategy.

The notion of not being familiar, however, is another story. I can’t comment on a report I haven’t seen, but I can talk about my own experience, and I get the sense that many businesses still see the cloud as a new and strange place, one that is still in its formative stages, and certainly not a place to be in the here and now.

Many of these people might be surprised to find that they engage in cloud computing every time they sit down at their PC. Over the past 10 years, for example, millions of people have used our cloud-based services such as Hosted Exchange, Outlook Web Access and Live Meeting, on devices of their choosing.

This past September we also started the technical preview program for Office Web Apps for Windows Live customers. For those who don’t know, Office Web Apps are lightweight versions of familiar Office programs (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote) delivered through the browser, letting people access their documents from virtually anywhere and easily share and work with others online.

In some ways it is early days when it comes to mixing software with online services. But for all the pros and cons you may hear, know that you can stick with what you already know.

[This article also appears on Daniel Shapiro’s Blog]