What is Cloud Reporting?

Cloud reporting is Software as a Service (SaaS) reporting based in the cloud. This gives clients and users complete access to the service provider’s cloud infrastructure applications. These applications are made accessible from most kinds of client devices, usually with a web browser interface. None of the cloud infrastructure’s framework—from its network to its servers or its operating systems (OS) and methods of storage—are directly accessible by the client to manage or control.

Cloud Reporting Diagram

Cloud computing has been recognized as the way forward by most enterprises and businesses across the world. Cloud adoption has included both multi and hybrid cloud strategies, with investments in these areas steadily increasing across the board through the pandemic to today.

The adoption of cloud reporting, which takes manual tasks into the cloud, ensures flexibility of scale and provides processing power. With cloud reporting, organizations just login to their cloud service and all software is automatically updated. This completely removes the need to manually maintain systems at the enterprise level.

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The Need for Cloud Reporting

There is an evolutionary story to the emergence of cloud reporting. Tools for reporting and analytics have primarily been on-premises. This meant that businesses were in charge of managing and maintaining all related infrastructure. Perpetual licenses were also an investment the business needed to make to accommodate new employees getting onto the system. This created a tremendous amount of pressure on the IT team, resulting in problems when a business wanted to scale up.

With the increase in remote working, virtual private networks (VPN), remote desktop sessions, and complex internal infrastructure can be a stressful experience for users, especially those who are not tech-savvy.

Several years ago, reporting and analytics-related solutions began moving to the cloud to create dynamic solutions to meet customer’s evolving needs. This opened the door to the kind of technology that became a game-changer.

Users now expect easy access to report creation and viewing with customized dashboards that can be accessed from anywhere, any time, and from most devices. Instant insights provided via artificial intelligence are easily available, giving a clear understanding of what is going on with the business. Cloud reporting tools have made it easy to create smart dashboards and a wide range of visualizations that can be accessed on-demand. These can be scheduled for regular development, publication, and sharing across the company. The distribution can take place through a web browser. Most importantly, all this can be done with minimal technical knowledge.

A monthly subscription makes all this easily available to a business without needing to burden the IT team to bring in more services and applications on site. The purchased subscription covers costs related to servers, any web hosting requirements, and the resources needed to generate and distribute reports across the enterprise. All technological updates are automatic and take place behind the scenes without any downtime. The latest security updates are constantly updated as patches. And even if there is a power outage or catastrophe at headquarters, employees can be assured that they will continue to have access to their reports.

As with all computing benefits, cloud reporting ensures that a business can focus on what’s important—developing the business—and are not bogged down by running and maintaining the infrastructure needed to support it. This gives businesses the space they need to grow and be future-ready.

The Advantages of Cloud Reporting

There are several advantages to cloud reporting for organizations:

Reduction in Infrastructure Expenses

Moving an organization’s functioning from traditional software to the cloud instantly brings down expenses related to IT requirements. It removes the need to source and maintain hardware and software, upgrade computers, or constantly reinvest into the latest infrastructure and equipment.

Better Collaboration

Cloud reporting tools, as with any activities associated with the cloud, paves the way for easier collaborations. Everyone (from staff, to management, to external vendors) can access information from anywhere and from any device. All that is needed for such accessibility is a device that can connect to the internet and the cloud to access data.

Increased Efficiency

With cloud reporting, organizations don’t have to worry about regularly buying software and installing it on new computers. This is a time-consuming process and an expensive one. With a subscription to a cloud, all the organization needs is to increase the number of people using the network when needed, and they automatically have access to the latest software. This increases efficiency, saves time, and results in financial savings.

An additional benefit is the energy efficiency that cloud reporting ensures compared to traditional IT set-ups, which use computers with heavy computing power. This results in savings in power costs as well.

Safety and Back-Up

When information is based on on-premise infrastructure, an incident such as a massive power outage or a natural disaster can result in immediate data loss. When data is based in the cloud, it is stored off-premises and access continues unhindered.

The Benefit of Flexibility

Cloud computing inherently comes with the freedom of flexibility. This is beneficial especially to smaller businesses that can’t afford to invest heavily in cloud infrastructure. With the cloud, they can subscribe to just how much they need, increasing capacity as per requirements. This helps with growth in phases, without a strain on finances. If a larger project is signed on, companies can take on more infrastructure and then let it go when the project is complete.

Ease of Use

Administration of IT infrastructure is a full-time job and it can be time consuming and repetitive. When this work is handed over to the cloud, it frees up administrators to handle other important work more efficiently. Their time is spent on constructive tasks with no delays.

Disadvantages of Cloud Reporting

As with any working system, with the benefits comes a flip side. There are a number of disadvantages of cloud reporting.

Security Loopholes

When a company’s data is based on off-premise servers, the organization is completely dependent on the service provider to ensure data security. The organization does not have complete control over their data. The onus of data security and compliance always lies with the end user, and this can turn out to be a disadvantage if servers are hacked.

Restricted Customization

Cloud service providers have a reputation for ensuring clients receive a vast range of features. However, these may still be insufficient if an organization is looking to customize these features to suit its requirements. This is one of the key reasons companies hesitate to move to the cloud. There is a limit to customization as service providers cater to numerous clients. Certain customizations are best handled by IT staff employed by the organization. The inability to customize is a disadvantage with the cloud.

More Front Office Staff Hires Required

Automation, as a result of moving to cloud reporting, does free up IT personnel from several tasks. However, because work protocols are now time-sensitive, there will be an increase in the number of front office personnel needed to handle the workflow. This may negate some of the benefit of a smaller IT team. This requirement is a direct fallout of the lack of customization that cloud reporting allows.

Lack of Reliable Internet

This is a massive deterrent to shifting to the cloud. If the organization functions largely with remote workers, the lack of reliable internet connectivity and bandwidth can defeat the whole purpose of moving to the cloud. Moreover, access to the database is never direct, but through a web-based application programming interface (API) which could put further pressure on the connection if bandwidth is already constricted.

Service Provider Collapse

A service provider is a business, and like all businesses, faces the danger of going out of business, especially if a major client pulls out. There is a real chance of the servers crashing, and in this case, it can take the organization’s data as well. When choosing a provider, the organization must ensure that the service provider has a backup system in place with a third party. This is a major disadvantage that must be considered.

Alternatively, the third party could be bought out by another company and the terms and conditions of agreement could change dramatically.

Challenges in Cloud Reporting

There are challenges to cloud reporting, but as with every dynamic IT-based workflow protocol, there are solutions.

Challenge One: Leaving Behind Traditional Style Reporting

Most traditional organizations expect reports to be created and submitted across various time frames—daily, once a week, bi-weekly, or monthly. Several businesses have built their entire functioning protocols based on these time-bound reports. Cloud reporting simplifies this process by ensuring that multiple dashboards can be set up with each one triggered to create reports based on a few parameters. This provides information instantly.

The need for a traditional reporting style can negatively affect the execution of cloud-based reporting. There are challenges in data migration, and traditional work style professionals may struggle to accept the new way of doing things. These mindsets are a big obstacle to the implementation of cloud reporting.

Solution: Implement a change in mindset.

The desire to bring real-time analytics into an organization is something that requires an initiative taken right from the top management, trickling down. The company has to be eased into the new processes and the benefits of the new process sold to staff in order to get buy-in.

Challenge Two: Concerns over Data Quality

A major obstacle to implementing real-time analytics centered on cloud reporting is the quality of data. Real-time reporting is the result of analyses of current data. If this data is incorrect, the reports are of sub-standard quality and the purpose is negated completely. It results in the wrong information being accessed across the company. There are surveys that show the spread of bad quality information and resultant reports across a company can lead to monetary losses. A company’s business plan can be thrown off the rails or may be based on a flawed premise. The input of the highest quality of data is essential right at the beginning.

Solution: Create a culture of accountability.

To prevent factually incorrect data from entering the system, a proactive approach is required by the organization. Every employee must be held accountable for the accuracy of the information they put into the system. They have to be responsible for their correctness and consistency over multiple parameters. To achieve this, every employee will need a clear understanding of company operations and the relevance of data within it.

Challenge Three: Overwhelmed by Data

A serious disadvantage to analytics in real-time is what exactly to do with all of the information on hand. While the latest updated information is what is needed for quality reporting, not having a goal towards which these reports work can render all the data accumulated useless. Without data strategies, the benefits of real-time analytics are underutilized.

Solution: Implement a data strategy.

Having a data strategy in place is the best way to deal with this problem. Make a start by defining what the organization’s strategies are about: is it wanting to bring down operational costs, improve customer satisfaction, or break into new markets? Knowing that the organization wants to reduce wait time for customer post-sales service by 10 minutes or ensuring 5 minutes time to respond to customer queries or increasing footfalls to the company’s store by 20 percent are achievable goals. With specific goals, data can then be channeled towards a specific purpose.

Always be open to learning from the data available. Make the data work for the organization. There are unexpected ways that data can help if users and organizations are open and flexible.

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Is Cloud Reporting the Right Solution for You?

With a quality cloud solution that takes care of reporting and analytics, businesses no longer need valuable staff to be tied up with time consuming and repetitive reporting functions. Instead, they can get on with complex tasks, managing other activities in the company such as business development and increasing customer satisfaction. The tools that cloud reporting utilizes ensure that businesses make the best use of their data, have the flexibility they need to scale up (or down when needed), and maintain a steady upward growth trajectory.

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