Cloud computing has been a disruptive technology, in that it has greatly impacted how companies consume resources and perform mission-critical operations. The solution is also influencing the enterprise resource planning (ERP) market, with more organizations considering migrating workloads to cloud-based environments.

A Virtustream report found that nearly 70 percent of large organizations are planning to move corporate applications, including ERP solutions, to the cloud by the end of 2014. Overall, 53 percent of senior IT decision-makers believe the cloud can help their firms improve agility, followed by 42 percent who said the technology's presence is a competitive advantage and 40 percent who indicated the cloud boosts productivity. The average cost savings of using the cloud compared to traditional IT systems among those polled was 17 percent.

"The end of 2014 will be a pivotal moment for the enterprise cloud," said Simon Aspinall, chief vertical markets executives at Virtustream. "ERP and other mission-critical applications have mainly been deployed conventionally – the cuckoos in cloud land. The next 18 months will see these critical applications pushed out of their in-house data center nests and migrated to the cloud."

The cloud may not help companies address all of their computing needs, but few options can match its overall functionality. The technology makes it possible for staff members to access corporate data using mobile devices, meaning physical location is no longer a deciding factor in their overall productivity.

Rather than purchasing on-site IT systems with hardware and software that require an upfront capital investment, businesses using the cloud can avoid such expenditures by only paying for services they actually consume, scaling operations to meet changing demands to keep costs in check.

ERP more available than ever
In the past, only businesses with vast resources could enjoy the benefits of a successful ERP implementation because the solutions were costly to adopt and maintain over time. Today, however, this is no longer the case and smaller organizations and even nonprofits can now leverage the capabilities of ERP systems.

A UNIT4 Business Software report encouraged nonprofits to first determine whether they want to move all of their applications to the cloud or not before migrating ERP systems to a cloud-based environment. Also, end-users must select cloud services that maintain flexibility because platforms that fail to evolve will not deliver value over the product's lifecycle.

Nonprofits appear to be especially supportive of cost-effective solutions such as the cloud. Shelley Zapp, CEO of UNIT4 Business Software, said many of these organizations are already using the cloud for financial, grant management and HR functions.

"The upfront benefits of the cloud have been firmly established; subscriptions reduce initial costs while cloud infrastructure frees up the IT department," Zapp said. "However, not all clouds are equal and if the system doesn't meet an organization's needs, the benefits of moving to the cloud are greatly reduced."

This last point not only applies to cloud solutions, but also ERP systems in general. Many industries rely on ERP software to perform mission-critical tasks, making it crucial that organizations select a platform that fits their specific demands. Infor solutions, for example, are popular among firms operating throughout various fields and can deliver the functionality that adopters of both on-site and cloud-based ERP are seeking today.

As more industry studies point to a growing acceptance and reliance on cost-effective technologies, the integration of cloud environments, especially with ERP software, will likely be the norm for the foreseeable future, making 2014 and years after truly the period of the cloud.