What is Cloud Business Intelligence?

Cloud-hosted BI applications make business data more accessible than ever before.

Cloud BI – A definition

Cloud Business Intelligence (BI) applications are hosted on a virtual network, such as the internet. They are used to provide organizations access to BI-related data such as dashboards, KPIs and other business analytics. Enterprises are increasingly turning to cloud-based tools, like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications (Salesforce), online file collaboration and storage (Dropbox, Box) and help desk software (UserVoice, Zendesk). This trend includes business intelligence tools embracing the agility and accessibility of the Cloud.

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Brief history of cloud computing

The concept of cloud computing has its origins in the 1950s with the development of the microchip and the mainframe computer. Users were able to access the computer through client or terminal computers and, to promote efficient use of Central Processing Unit (CPU) resources, the practice of multitenancy and time-sharing evolved. From the 1960s to the late 1990s, improvements to time-sharing models, server balancing and remote access (VPN) laid the groundwork for what would come during the dot-com boom in the early 2000s.

The rapid development of computing power and the advent of the internet during the 1990s paved the way for major developments in cloud computing. Early pioneers like Google, Amazon and Salesforce helped to demonstrate the ability of the cloud to deliver computing power without hardware and locally installed software. Since the mid-2000s, the cloud computing industry has grown exponentially, and is predicted to become a $210B industry by 2016.

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Cloud computing meets business intelligence

Cloud computing and business intelligence are an ideal match. Business intelligence is about delivering the right information to the right people at the right time, and cloud computing provides a lightweight, agile way to access BI applications. The beauty of Cloud BI applications is that they are accessible on multiple devices and web browsers. This is circumventing traditional software barriers such as the requirement to access the application on-site.

Advantages of cloud computing for BI users

Cloud BI offers some significant advantages over on-premise applications. Here are a few of these advantages:

Ease of use

Cloud BI applications, like other cloud applications, tend to be easier for end-users to operate and set up. This means reduced IT involvement and costs.

Deployment speed

Cloud applications are very simple to deploy, since they require no additional hardware or software installations.

Scalability and elasticity

Cloud applications can be rapidly scaled to accommodate for an increase in the number of users in an organization.

Accessibility

Cloud BI applications can be accessed on any web browser or on any mobile device.

Cloud BI – Is the sky the limit?

The potential of cloud BI, like cloud computing, is staggering. Enterprises are migrating to the cloud and are already enjoying the benefits, such as lowered cost, increased deployment speed and ease of use. Cloud applications now boast equivalent computing power to on-premise applications. They offer users feature-depth that was, up until now, only available in locally installed software.

Cloud BI has the potential to become a lynch-pin in the analytic and BI strategies of enterprises, by providing end-users with real-time access to business-critical data.

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