Office 365 was "much more cost effective," Clouser stated, adding that the cloud helps Advocate Health Care save around $1 million annually. He said that though the company has added thousands of users in recent years, it hasn't required additional infrastructure or staff to manage the infusion. "Microsoft is managing all of that on the backend," he said.
Many companies are leery of hosting sensitive content in the cloud. This is especially true for highly regulated industries such as healthcare. Clouser shared that his company "scoured whitepapers with Microsoft" before deciding on Office 365. "It's HIPAA-compliant, and data going back and forth is encrypted," he stated. "We're comfortable with that." He said the "beauty" of a subscription model is that additional services, such as stricter encryption, can be added as needed.
Clouser also praised Microsoft's improved customer service. Redmond was "going through some growing pains" when Office 365 was announced in 2010, he said. Since then, Clouser has found that support is "dramatically improved," stating that Microsoft is "much better at listening to the voice of the customer."
Clouser also asserted that Advocate Health Care might discover additional savings as it learns to develop new use cases around Office 365's cloud-based features. He said the company isn't using Microsoft's Web apps yet, but it has deployed SharePoint in the cloud, enabling users to collaborate more effectively. The company also is exploring app development for the Surface Pro. Presently, he said, doctors are using iOS devices.
Advocate Health Care's savings are inspiring, but not all businesses can expect a comparable return on Office 365 investments. In an interview, Sara Radicati, CEO of the tech research firm The Radicati Group, said, "The cloud model is being promoted as this great cost saver, but you have to look at pricing and multiply it out for your own organization." She declared that on-premises solutions could be the more cost-effective option for large organizations, stating that there "is a point at which the cloud model just keeps going up [in price], whereas an on-premises model can be apportioned better."