The cloud computing industry is hotter than ever. Despite initial pullback in IT spending at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, cloud computing spend is now expected to reach $257.5 billion in 2020, a 6% increase from $242.7 billion last year. And research firm Gartner forecasts cloud spending to increase 18% next year.

Given the anticipated growth in 2021, here are three top cloud computing companies to consider investing in, giving you exposure to different segments of the sector.

Closeup of a gray computer keyboard showing a blue key labeled "cloud."

Image source: Getty Images.

Microsoft: Cloud infrastructure

Although well known for its Windows and Office software, Microsoft (MSFT 0.45%) reinvented itself into a cloud powerhouse. The company is second only to Amazon in cloud-services market share.

Central to Microsoft's cloud services business is its Azure platform, which provides the foundational IT infrastructure for businesses to migrate to the cloud. Azure experienced a 48% year-over-year revenue increase in the company's fiscal first quarter, which ended Sept. 30.

Azure's fiscal Q1 performance was just the latest in robust year-over-year revenue growth during the past several quarters.

Quarter Azure Year-Over-Year Revenue Growth
Q1 2021 48%
Q4 2020 47%
Q3 2020 59%
Q2 2020 62%
Q1 2020 59% 

Data source: Microsoft.

Azure isn't Microsoft's only contributor to cloud revenue. The company transitioned its storied Office software suite to a cloud-based subscription service. Dubbed Office 365, this cloud software-as-a-service (SaaS) product saw first-quarter revenue grow 21% year over year. CFO Amy Hood said, "Demand for our cloud offerings drove a strong start to the fiscal year."

These results continued Microsoft's strong cloud performance in its 2020 fiscal year, which ended June 30, during which the company reached $50 billion in commercial cloud revenue for the first time.

Microsoft's success led several Wall Street analysts to raise their stock price targets recently. Citi raised its target from $229 to $272 per share. Morgan Stanley also upped its target from $249 to $260.

As icing on the cake, Microsoft is one of the few cloud companies offering a dividend.

Salesforce: Cloud SaaS

Every modern business requires a customer relationship management (CRM) system to strengthen customer acquisition and retention, and the leader in CRM is (CRM 2.61%), with its cloud-based CRM platforms.

Salesforce's performance throughout 2020 illustrates its strength in the SaaS market. It has delivered multiple quarters of record results over the past 12 months.

The company's fiscal fourth quarter, which ended Jan. 31, kicked off 2020 with a record $4.85 billion in revenue, representing 35% year-over-year growth. Salesforce followed that with record Q1 revenue of $4.87 billion, and its quarterly sales kept growing from there.

CRM Revenue (Quarterly) Chart

Data by YCharts.

Its fiscal third quarter was another record with $5.4 billion in revenue, up 20% year over year, and exceeding its $5.2 billion third-quarter guidance. Despite this, its stock price dropped due to its impending acquisition of Slack Technologies (WORK), a messaging app for businesses.

The addition of Slack allows Salesforce to further enhance its ecosystem of business products, which extend beyond CRM to include marketing, analytics, and e-commerce. Salesforce is a comprehensive business solution, and Slack only expands its cloud capabilities and SaaS market leadership.

CrowdStrike: Cloud-based cybersecurity

CrowdStrike Holdings (CRWD -2.95%) is a newer public company. Its IPO occurred in 2019, and it has experienced tremendous growth since.

Being in the cloud allows CrowdStrike's cybersecurity platform to leverage artificial intelligence combined with expert security data to accurately identify and catch cyberattacks.

The company operates in a packed field of competitors, but even so, in its fiscal third quarter, which ended Oct. 31, CrowdStrike witnessed an amazing 86% increase in year-over-year revenue.

This performance was just the latest in a year of constantly rising revenue.

CRWD Revenue (Quarterly) Chart

Data by YCharts.

The company's revenue comes primarily from customers subscribing to its cybersecurity services. Third-quarter subscription revenue grew 87% year over year, and subscription margin grew from 74% last year to 77%.

This illustrates CrowdStrike's ability to capture its fair share of a crowded market. According to Gartner, spending on cloud management and security services is expected to increase from $14.9 billion this year to $19.9 billion by 2022.

The recently disclosed U.S. government hack is just one example of the threats lurking online, so CrowdStrike should see continued revenue growth in 2021.