More of the world’s organizations, including many here in the Middle East and Africa, now get their productivity and collaboration software from the cloud. There are good reasons for this shift. Among them: high availability, security, and privacy. Plus, compared to the traditional model of software acquisition—where you purchase, install, secure, and constantly maintain a set number of software licenses as a capital expense—cloud-based software is a revelation in cost-savings. It enables you to pay for software as you use it, and log it as an operational expense. One in four Microsoft enterprise customers now subscribes to Office 365, the flagship service we launched in 2011. It’s now spreading these savings across 141 markets worldwide, including 28 in MEA, easing budget pressures for all types of organizations. Here are the three groups that stand to gain the most from this move to the cloud:
1. Government agencies
Tight budgets make governments among the top adopters of Office 365. This is especially evident in MEA right now. Two years ago, the cloud service was being used only by one government; today it’s being used by 28 countries across the region, and that number is growing as we speak. With results coming in from the governments of Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, UAE, and more, it’s clear that Office 365 can bring far-reaching impacts. In the Limpopo Province of South Africa and the Municipality of Ataşehir in Turkey, the governments use it to improve worker productivity while at the same time reducing travel, facilitating remote work, and cutting IT administration costs.
2. Educational institutions
With cloud-based office software, Ministers of Education now can speak the language of their nations’ cloud-ready students, who spend hours each week using Internet technologies. About 110 million students, faculty, and staff around the world now use Office 365, including millions in Egypt, Morocco, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, which are seeing great impacts. And with last month’s launch of Student Advantage, 35,000 additional educational institutions now can give all their students free access, providing huge opportunities for collaboration and information-sharing. This experience will serve students well as they join the workforce. According to a 2013 IDC study, Microsoft Office proficiency is among the top three skills students need for the 60 highest-growth, highest-wage occupations in the coming years.
3. Small businesses
Freed from upfront software costs, small businesses have money to invest in growing their revenues and adding employees. Because this drives economic growth, many governments offer start-up business packages that include cloud software, such as Office 365, office space, business education, and more, to help these start-ups hit the ground running in their countries. By using Office 365, these small businesses not only get cloud-based cost-savings, but their employees also benefit from using feature-rich software with huge storage in the cloud that they can access from anywhere, on any device. That’s why Gartner states that the number of companies with a majority of users on Office 365 will grow from 10 percent today to 60 percent by 2020.
As governments, educational institutions, and small businesses continue this profound shift from the old software model to the public cloud via services like Office 365, they’re taking important first steps in what Gartner calls “a decade-long journey.” Where does this journey end? I think a hybrid cloud approach, as shown in this video, is inevitable. With that approach, we’ll move even further into the cloud by combining the best of public and private cloud services to really run at peak efficiency. It will be a journey well worth the effort.
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