Get ready now: Your office will be in the cloud within a decade

Get ready now: Your office will be in the cloud within a decade

Summary: Most workers will be using cloud based office packages within the next decade, although mostly it's smaller organisations making the jump now.


Within 10 years, most organisations will have switched to cloud-based office packages such as Microsoft's Office 365 or Google Apps — even though right now most early adopters are small businesses.

Analyst house Gartner estimates there are around 50 million enterprise users of cloud office systems, but this accounts for less than eight percent of overall office package users.

But a major shift towards cloud office systems will begin by the first half of 2015 and reach 33 percent of users by 2017, and within 10 years, two thirds of workers will be using cloud-based productivity packages.

Google has made much of the running with Google Apps, but Microsoft is also keen to move customers to a subscription model which it sees as the future of software and recently announced it has reached the one million subscriber mark with its Office 365 Home Premium product.

Here's what is really worrying CIOs, right now

Here's what is really worrying CIOs, right now

Here's what is really worrying CIOs, right now

However, Microsoft has also said that it might take a decade for it to switch purely to the cloud model for Office.  

Gartner seems to have roughly the same timescales in mind, and said most current users were small firms, although a few were large or very large enterprises.

"Be careful interpreting 'trophy wins' promoting either Google or Microsoft's victories in huge organisations," Gartner said. "They are anecdotes. Although they are interesting, there are too few data points to constitute a good sample from which to draw major inferences. Also note that some of Microsoft's large account wins are still supported from dedicated hosted systems, not multitenant cloud-based services."

Gartner said neither Google nor Microsoft was dominating: "Both parties are winning some and losing some engagements. Both parties have substantive benefits and hidden liabilities. Invest based on needs, not on perceived market momentum."

One big factor encouraging enterprise customers to move to the cloud is the huge increase in the number of devices workers use to access office applications, thanks to bring your own device. When cloud office packages first appeared in 2007 workers would use one device, their desktop PC, to access email. Now they are using at least four devices — smartphone, tablet, work PC and home PC — to access their organisation's office system capabilities in a single week. 

This is pushing organisations towards cloud office systems as they can reduce the IT burden of software installation, maintenance and upgrades. The number of devices is important for another reason: while on-premise office packages are often sold on a per-device licensing model, cloud office systems are typically provisioned to each user, not to each device.

As Gartner points out: "For knowledge workers who are increasingly using multiple devices, moving to a per-user (not per-device) payment scheme can lead to significant savings if the customer would otherwise have to licence (or buy subscriptions for) each device under older, per-device licensing approaches."

The analysts also point out that organisations with many devices shared between workers — as in the banking and healthcare industries — may be better off licencing or subscribing by device.

Levels of usage of cloud office packages vary by industry: higher education, discrete manufacturing, retail and hospitality, are significantly more likely to be early adopters. Defence, financial services and healthcare are among those least likely to get involved.

"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," said Tom Austin, Gartner vice president.

Gartner said waiting for a couple of years might be shrewd for some, to give vendors more time to really deliver on their promises. Companies might want to start with workloads less critical than email, such as email archiving and spam and virus filtering, or by moving segments of the user population to cloud office systems while retaining an on-premise approach for others.

Topic: Cloud

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  • Security is still the issue that can kill the cloud

    Protecting your data while it is in the cloud is still a long ways out (if ever). It is scary how many of the cloud based services that will not even give out a security policy for their employees to prospective customers (don't know if this means they don't have one or something worse!). Until you can show that there is good security from both cloud companies employees and external threats putting your data on the cloud is about the same as putting it on a billboard on 101.
    • In the cloud and guarded by NSA

      That sounds great, ain't it?
    • Cloud security

      You can have today the same level of security in the cloud that you have on premise, using the same technology and the same standards. Saying that the cloud can't be secure is a canard perpetuated by ignorance. Ultimately, a client has to communicate with a server. Whether that server is in the next room or miles away doesn't make one bit of difference.
      • Anyone who thinks

        even a tiny little bit will know that a miles long connection can never be as reliable or secure as a connection to the next room or at least in the same building. The server – client model is nothing more than the modern update of the ancient dumb terminal – mainframe model. In those days, when the mainframe or one of its critical subsystems failed, everybody stood around drinking coffee because all work stopped in its tracks. With a PC model, only that one particular computer user is out of work when that system fails, not the whole company. It is also much easier to hack into and steal information from a single server computer, then information stored on thousands of desktops.
        • Perhaps, But Then...

          We all rely on the phone, don't we? Miles and miles long connections... both wire and wireless...
        • It's about people as well as tech

          There's no technical reason why a cloud or hosted system should more or less secure, or more or less available. But look at the skills of the average small business sys admin, and the amount of time the have to focus on security, and compare it to the amount of time a cloud supplier has to spend doing the same thing...
          • Truly it is about people

            I look at the little firms that offer cloud services and when asked about their security policies blindly say "Were secure". If you ask them about the potential for their people to access the data in the cloud they respond with "why should they?". This is not secure, this is clueless.

            Now move to the big firms, I haven't seen any evidence they hire the best and the brightest for network operations. A number of the cloud failures involved people in operations, if they can fail in operating then security has to be questioned also.
      • Ignorance? Really? Let's talk about that...

        First, the employees of AWS are not *my* employees.

        Second, I have little-to-no certainty as whether or not the infrastructure in a given cloud provider are current (not just compliant) with CIS, PCI, or ...?

        Third, an example: unless I have a dedicated server or VM, there's no guarantee that some sloppy schmuck didn't put crappy PHP code into his virtual website on the same box/VM, almost guaranteeing that the server itself becomes compromised, thus allowing the interloper access to my data.

        Fourth, if you're a company who has trade secrets, IP, or what-have-you? Tell me, just how exactly do you expect to calm down nervous shareholders/directors/CxO's after you get done telling them that their family jewels are now actively stored on some anonymous box halfway across the continent that no employee of theirs has physical control of (or worse, stored on another continent entirely)?

        Sure, there are instances where sensitive bits are stored offsite (tapes, anyone?), but there's a vast difference between aging data sitting encrypted on tapes in cold storage at some bonded vendor's facility, and a frickin' live server that actively holds the stuff.

        Cloud services may get there eventually, but a decade is just way too ambitious.
      • Um, No

        My server in the next room and 200 workstations in the building, don't pass my corporate data through the NSA's vacuum cleaner.
      • Cloud Security

        There are at least 2 problems with Cloud Services, 1 of course is security (note the amount of our data being racked and stacked by the government), and 2 is when the internet goes down you can't use cloud services. You can't guarantee 100% up time on the internet. Storms happen and trees fall down on communication lines. As long as you have power you can use your installed software so it's a better system. Also a standalone device does not have the same security issues as an internet connected device.
  • More Cloud Idiocy

    What is overlooked is these are subscriptions to services and need fast, reliabel connections. Subscriptions change the payment from a one-time payment to a periodic payment. While pundits think this is always a good idea many people do not because it means more monthly cash flow out the door every month. The reliability of the connection is an issue to some degree for all users - if you cna not connect to the service or have a poor connection you have problems getting workd done.

    Security is usually ignored by the pundits. Data security is more important (or should be) than they allow. So why should someone give another compnay access to almost all their confidential data? Combine this with all employees will need credentials to access the cloud service has the makings of security nightmare. Data security is now a joint responsibility of the subscriber and the provider and given the often one-sided EULAs the subscriber will often lose.
    • Concur 100% and more!

      Concur 100% and more if I could ignore reason as so many pundits do.
    • Yup - agreed.

      There's a vast difference between the perfect world that many pundits dream of (or construct for click-bait reasons), and the real world, where people can get rather nasty, brutish, and wickedly creative.
    • How good is enterprise security?

      Do you think most small (or even large) companies have the in-house skills to secure their infrastructure? And even if they do have the skills, do you think they *really* want to pay for them? Cost is a big driver here.
  • A hype induced step backwards, methinks!

    I can access all my computers and NAS drives remotely. It's fast, it's secure and I know who's guarding my data. If my data gets absconded with, it's my fault, not some nebulous and mystical entity so I am very careful. I don't understand where all of these cloud pearls of wisdom are coming from. They sound like something some impressionable young person has been told and is regurgitating. I have yet to see any significant value in it.
    On the other hand, i do remember when you bought your cable modem to save monthly charges and now you're not going to buy an office suite so you can pay subscription fees.
    What's wrong with this picture?
    • Individual does not equal business

      Managing everything yourself might work for you, but doesn't necessarily scale. Most small businesses are more than happy to outsource this all to a cloud provider. If you have a small businesses of 20 people, why should one of them have to be, for example, an Exchange expert?
  • Twaddle

    Re article heading: As regards the situation globally, summed up in one word: "twaddle".

    Reasons have been exercised here and in many other threads.
  • "...but Microsoft is also keen to move customers to a subscription model...

    Of course they are. Means more money in their pockets and less in yours.

    • Sub models = perfect MSFT dream

      Indeed - nothing like holding your data hostage, and once they have monopoly status, they can jack up the rates as far as the government(s) will let them (that is, low enough to make it more painful to switch providers, but high enough to maximize the amount of money they can get out of you.)
  • Get ready now: Your office will be in the cloud within a decade

    They must have gotten that information from the Microsoft insider Loverock Davidson.......sure sounds like something (FUD) he would claim.
    Over and Out