The selling points for cloud services are that it frees companies from having to spend big on technology support and nullifies geography as a barrier to in-house information, which can be plugged from the cloud as needed.
The growth of the cloud market suggests companies are buying the pitch.
The market for global cloud-computing services is projected to double from US$68.3 billion in 2010 to US$148.8 billion by 2014.
Data suggests that 81 per cent of businesses globally are either evaluating, planning, implementing, or have already adopted a cloud strategy, as highlighted at a conference hosted by Mona School of Business (MSB).
Reginald Budhan, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, quoted from research done by KPMG.
Jamaican companies, he said, are likely to benefit from the technology which is said to cut 25 per cent of IT costs and improve productivity.
The two-day conference held in Kingston November 1-2, focused on new applications in managing hosted corporate and information services, and included presenters from lead sponsor Digicel, the International Telecommunications Union, Cloud Perspectives of Ontario, Canada, Fujitsu Caribbean and other organisations.
Keynote speaker Steve Woodward, CEO of Cloud Perspectives of Ontario, Canada, said at Tuesday's session that savings from cloud computing applications in the United Kingdom are estimated at 20 per cent of the £16-billion public ICT budget.
He defined the technology as a "model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources - networks, servers, storage, applications, services - that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service."
While there are a variety of platforms and deployment models for cloud services, their essential characteristics include on-demand self-service network access, resource pooling and rapid response to user demands.
For use of the cloud substitutes for individual company investment in back-end infrastructure, presenters at the conference noted, "In most parts of the world, the vast majority of enterprises have already moved some business activities to the cloud, and investment is expected to increase significantly in 2012, with some companies planning to spend more than a fifth of their IT budget on cloud, according to KPMG International Report 2011," Budhan said.
"Among organisations that will use the cloud, as well as companies that will provide cloud services, economic factors were cited by 76 per cent of both groups as an important driver for cloud adoption. Other considerations are efforts to improve processes; technical benefits; strategic benefits, possibly including transforming their business models to gain a competitive advantage."
Budhan also cited a 2009 global survey done by The World Economic Forum, which found that organizations using or planning to use cloud computing do not view cost reduction as the most important potential benefit.
"While lowering costs by accessing less-expensive computer resources over the Internet remains a major factor, corporate and government executives say the biggest advantage of cloud computing is better support for creating new products and services, and innovation in general."
Jason Corrigan, commercial director with Digicel Jamaica, said Digicel had commissioned a study with the MSB to examine the awareness, relevance and opportunities for cloud services, out of which research the company launched new services - including cloud backup, cloud telephony and cloud computing.
"This suite of cloud products position Digicel to be leading the charge in making Jamaica the ICT hub of the Caribbean. Cloud technology is really the next stage in the Internet's evolution, providing the means through which everything including emails, computing applications, business processes are delivered to you as a service wherever and whenever you need," said Corrigan.
The cloud gives businesses competitive edge by allowing them access to technology that might have been previously unavailable because of price or budget issues.
"Studies have shown that the use of cloud services in businesses can be up to 25 per cent cheaper than if you were to buy and implement traditional technologies to perform the same function. It is a cost-effective pay-as-you-go model which makes it easier for businesses of any size to use the benefits of cloud technology," said Corrigan.