The percentage of enterprises adopting cloud-based Software as a Service (Saas) solutions has grown five-fold in the past four years, according to new research from Northbridge Venture Partners and Gigaom Research. For software and infrastructure providers, all this boils down to money – and plenty of it. IHS projects businesses will spend $174 billion on cloud architecture and services this year, and $235 billion by 2017.

With so much at stake, it’s not hard to see why every software and services provider is fashioning its offerings as cloud-based, cloud-ready or cloud-friendly.

Enterprise decision-makers, though, would be wise to look closely when evaluating new solutions. They should consider what these phrases mean, and whether the solutions they’re assessing offer capabilities and benefits that only true cloud solutions (such as Workday, Okta, Tidemark and others) can deliver. Look closely enough, and you are likely to see where a “cloud-ready” solution may not be ready for the cloud at all.

A new paper available today – Five ways to identify a “true” cloud solution – can help you distinguish between premise-based platforms now sporting a few cobbled-in cloud characteristics and solutions actually architected to live in the cloud, and thus built to deliver cloud-only benefits.

What makes a true cloud-first solution? From the paper, here’s a quick rundown.

  1. Automatic, painless access to innovations. Old-school client software requires time-consuming upgrades, so new features are bundled into major releases to try and minimize the pain for administrators and users.   Cloud-first solutions can deliver new capabilities automatically, with no additional cost or time burdens placed on customers.
  2. Flexible configuration, not costly customization. Every enterprise deserves a solution that meets its needs and conforms to its workflow. What it doesn’t deserve is a huge consulting bill for months of meticulous customization that creates a platform so complex only the consultant understands how it works. A well-designed cloud-first solution enables self-service configuration that lets process owners preview and test an endless array of configuration changes before they’re incorporated into the application.
  3. Scalability. Businesses move critical functions to the cloud for a lot of reasons, but a primary driver is the ease with which they can scale up or down as their needs change – all without expensive changes to IT assets. It should be easy to add or remove users to manage cost and usage. No enterprise should settle for less.
  4. Cross-platform integration. Organizations are beefing up their forecasting models with all kinds of structured and unstructured data – and they don’t have months to devote to painstaking data integration.  Look for cloud-first solutions that are built to integrate with peripheral tools, and to accept data from a multitude of enterprise platforms and external sources. No organization today can afford to wait for the painstaking integration process that defined software in the pre-cloud era – and that continues to live on in many so-called cloud-ready platforms.
  5. Customer centricity. True cloud solution providers have to put customers first. Cloud customers make no significant on-premise IT investment, so there’s no reason for them to stick with a platform or vendor they’re not happy with. Once it’s time for customers to renew their subscription, they can simply move on. This is a powerful and persistent incentive for cloud providers to make their customers feel like VIPs every day. The best cloud providers understand this.

For more details and further tips on what to look for in a true cloud-first solution and why that matters, download our new paper today. I’m confident you’ll see how terms like cloud-based, cloud-ready and cloud-friendly can help you choose your next solution – though perhaps not in the way their providers have in mind.