One out of three businesses has already switched to the cloud. In the most recent edition of IT Trend Perceptions in Canadian Large and Medium-Sized Businesses, a study conducted by Léger and NOVIPRO, 33% of surveyed business leaders said that cloud computing made their business more efficient. The year prior, just one fifth of respondents expressed the same view.

It’s clear that businesses are quickly making the switch to cloud computing, which goes well beyond the online office packages like Microsoft’s Office 365 and Google’s G Suite.

“Often, businesses discover the public cloud aspect of cloud computing first,” says Pierre Lanthier, Executive Vice-President at NOVIPRO Group and senior partner at its E-SPACE subsidiary. “With the cloud, several organizations can share technical resources and just pay for what they use.” Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure have enhanced the offer of these shared environments.

But companies that need a more robust IT infrastructure now maintain their own private cloud platform. “This ensures the equipment they rely on—whether rented or owned—is only used by their business,” explains Lanthier. “At E-SPACE, we create custom cloud environments to suit each client’s unique needs.”

According to the Léger and NOVIPRO study, 39% of businesses are already using a cloud system for their IT infrastructure. And it’s not just tech firms. Businesses in more traditional industries like distribution and manufacturing are also making the switch because their operations and growth now depend on IT systems.

A financial decision

One thing is certain: cloud computing will continue to gain ground. In the study, 42% of respondents say they believe that the future is in the cloud, even if their business isn’t quite ready to take the plunge.

The most compelling reason to switch to the cloud is its cost-effectiveness. Lower costs is the most frequent reason cited by respondents (55%).

The savings go beyond the equipment. “You need people to manage IT equipment, and these individuals require increasingly specialized skills, which means they are harder to find and more expensive to retain,” explains Lanthier. “For companies whose core business isn’t IT, it can be very hard to recruit good IT specialists. Cloud computing makes it possible for these companies to share resources that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to hire. Our clients prefer outsourcing their infrastructure management because it improves their IT governance and allows their internal IT team to focus on in-house projects.”

Faster and with fewer constraints

Keeping costs down may be the main appeal of cloud computing, but it’s certainly not the only good reason for making this choice. Some 44% of companies also cite agility and flexibility as motivating factors.

Agility allows businesses to take action quickly, which makes them more competitive. “In an environment managed by a company’s in-house team, it could take up to six months to choose the software and hardware for each IT project, and then another two to three months for purchase and installation,” says Lanthier. “But today, thanks to cloud computing, we can mobilize resources much more quickly and get the same job done in just two or three weeks.”

Businesses also find that cloud computing offers added flexibility by freeing them from legacy systems and allowing them to avoid spending money they’ll never get back on hardware. In short, it means that businesses aren’t held back by past decisions and they can temporarily get more people on board to test new solutions quickly.

“Some clients want to do testing in live situations before moving forward with major changes, such as acquiring a new ERP,” explains Lanthier. He mentions that E-SPACE will soon offer an advanced cloud environment that allows businesses to test artificial intelligence use cases.

Better data protection

Beyond the strategic benefits of cloud computing, there’s a more primal concern driving businesses toward the cloud. “Companies regularly have to deal with threats and data security alerts,” says Lanthier. Among companies that have already made the switch to cloud computing and those that plan to, most (56%) use it for data backup, putting this reason ahead of:

  • big data (45%)
  • corporate website (40%)
  • archiving (38%)
  • email, messaging and collaboration tools (38%)
  • customer relationship management (CRM) systems (32%)
  • enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems (26%)

Cloud computing is steadily gaining ground in what is an increasingly broad range of IT functions, each of which requires support from personnel with niche areas of expertise. “Firms that specialize in cloud computing offer a depth and breadth of expertise, with professionals who can monitor your infrastructure and help you take it to the next level, in addition to supporting your everyday operations and setting up new environments as your business grows. Finally, if a disaster occurs, they will help you recover quickly and resume your normal operations,” says Lanthier.