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Cloud office systems to gain momentum moving forward

Companies are moving to the cloud, though the pace may be slower than many experts proclaim.

The office phone system used to be the only way employees could communicate with colleagues, clients and partners. These outdated land line platforms fit the bill for legacy operations, but quickly lost momentum when the workforce decided to embrace innovative technologies due to consumerization trends.

The consumerization of IT changed everything in the business, including everything from where employees would work to the devices they could use to carry out those tasks. The introduction of the smartphone, for example, enabled employees to own a complex handheld computer, allowing them to complete operations from their home or waiting in line at the local grocery store. The point is that it didn't matter where individuals worked and they were still getting the job done. As a result, old phone systems that relied on land line connections lost their importance and were replaced by more advanced solutions.

The advent of cloud computing was another major monument in the transformation of the business world. In fact, many industry experts believe the proliferation of the cloud was the most disruptive occurrence, as the technology continues to metamorphosize the way individuals work. This is partially because the cloud allows companies to more effectively support a remote workforce without sacrificing accessibility to mission-critical applications.

The hype surrounding the cloud has driven pundits far and wide to believe that it is an all-encompassing unified network that will forever change the enterprise. While this may be the case, the adoption rate of cloud office systems may not be as fast as many proclaim it to be.

Where the cloud stands

The cloud is constantly stealing headlines with evangelists claiming it is anywhere and everywhere. While this is sometimes the case, a recent Gartner report highlighted how only about 50 million office system users, who account for about 8 percent of the population, are performing operations in the cloud. Still, analysts believe that the next few years will be critical to the cloud's overall growth, eventually driving penetration rates to 33 percent in 2017.

The hosted PBX solution is a very popular cloud application today, as it transforms a traditional premise-based communications platform into more sophisticated entity capable of supporting mobile access and remote connectivity. Still, Gartner stated that email is currently the most popular collaborative tool in the enterprise. By 2014, roughly 10 percent of email seats are estimated to migrate to the cloud, though it is forecast to grow to a third by 2017.

"Despite the hype surrounding migration to the cloud, big differences in movement rates continue, depending on organizations' size, industry, geography and specific requirements. While 8 percent of business people were using cloud office systems at the start of 2013, we estimate this number will grow to 695 million users by 2022, to represent 60 percent" said Tom Austin, vice president and Gartner Fellow.

Yet organizations cannot simply adopt cloud collaborative tools without planning their deployment in advance. For this reason, executives need to map out their cloud projects.

Creating a cloud plan

Gartner said the proliferation of mobile devices has increased the need for organizations to develop best practices when embracing the cloud. This is because individuals are accessing resources from virtually anywhere at any time, changing the way decision-makers need to look at licensing. Because the cloud generally offers licenses through users, not necessarily through endpoints, companies can experience significant cost savings by not having to purchase software licenses for every endpoint.

Enterprises should also consider establishing governance policies to reduce risk.

"Although it is still early in the overall evolution of this cloud-based segment, there are many cases where businesses - particularly smaller ones and those in the retail, hospitality and manufacturing industries - should move at least some users to cloud office systems during the next two years. However, readiness varies by service provider and caution is warranted," Austin asserted.

A TechTarget report highlighted the importance that decision-makers do a thorough investigation into why their companies need the cloud and how employees intend to use it. If organizations are planning to implement a cloud VoIP or hosted document management system, for example, executives need to understand the devices that employees will use to access those platforms. If a bring-your-own-device plan is already in place, organizations need to set some limits for what individuals can do on those gadgets.

For the most part, success in the cloud ultimately comes down to how well organizations can plan the projects and monitor their usage, TechTarget noted.

In the coming years, the cloud will undoubtedly gain momentum, especially as companies continue to demand the use of innovative office systems to give them an advantage over rival firms. This acceleration will encourage companies of all sizes to map out an effective cloud strategy.