Firms continue to rely on cloud software solutions

Michael Thorne, product director at Pearlfinders.com, observed many businesses are no longer sceptical about the benefits of the cloud can provide their organizations. He observed that tools such as Google Apps and Microsoft’s Office 365 can provide significant cost-savings and productivity benefits to a firm.

“I think with Google Apps and Office 365, the interesting thing for us is Office seems to be winning the hearts and minds of IT decision makers to a certain extent,” he stated. The expert suggested there is a feeling among IT professionals that the cloud-based suite of programs will be a safe option for businesses as it is designed to integrate smoothly with the forthcoming Windows 8 operating system, which should make it easy to use both on desktops and tablets running the platform.

This view is echoed by Ingram Micro Canada’s general manager Mark Snider, who said the ability to have a similar interface across multiple devices could be very valuable for enterprises. Speaking after Microsoft’s 2012 Worldwide Partner Conference, which took place in Toronto, the expert said: “I really think it’s going to bring productivity to the next level, but it’s also going to bring the smartphone and the tablet into the mainstream for business users.”

While there is a significant future for cloud services, Mr Thorne did observe that there are still challenges to be dealt with if companies adopt software-as-a-service tools. These challenges include issues related to connectivity and security, while organizations in some sectors – such as law firms and pharmaceutical companies – may have legal requirements as to where their data will be stored.

He suggested firms that operate in remote areas or have offices away from fast broadband connections may find the shift to the cloud unfeasible unless their infrastructure is upgraded. While he added new technologies such as 4G may able to play a part in negating the impact of this, the expert said this is something that remains uncertain at the present time.

“Obviously, security is the thing that people still worry about with the cloud,” Mr Thorne said, while he also noted businesses will have to be reassured that cloud services will be reliable.

Mr Thorne highlighted one recent incident that saw cloud services operated by Amazon taken offline by an electrical storm. “It seems to be with absolute regularity that every few months, there will be a major, high-profile outage that creates a huge number of column inches,” he said. Therefore, companies that are investigating cloud solutions are likely to demand that providers demonstrate their contingency plans for avoiding such blackouts in order to ease the concerns of senior decision makers.

This week, Microsoft has been highlighting the benefits companies could see from the use of its Office 365 suite with the case study of luxury audio and video equipment manufacturer Bang & Olufsen, which has adopted to tools to unify its email, calendaring, collaboration and communication solutions. According to Microsoft, the firm expects to cut its IT operational costs by 82 per cent though the system, as well as providing access to around 1,350 remote workers who were previously unable to connect to the corporate network.

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