What is Cloud Reporting?  

February 7, 2024
10 min read

What is Cloud Reporting?

There was a time, not long ago, when we all ran our own on-premise servers to manage IT infrastructure and business applications. In those days, you were responsible for all of the costs, labor, and accountability of running and maintaining your company’s software, hardware, networks, data, and security.    

Today, cloud computing has inevitably changed the way this process works. Cloud applications no longer require the heavy investment in infrastructure we’re familiar with. Powered by the world’s largest cloud service providers, most of the hard work is done.  

  • Instead of perpetual licensing and server upkeep, you pay a monthly fee for total access and storage to software available over the internet – also known as Software as a Service (SaaS). 
  • Instead of costly upgrades, automatic updates keep your systems up-to-date and secure on the latest version.  
  • Instead of being restricted to the confines of on-premise technology, the cloud allows you to scale up or down to meet market demands instantly.  

From the extreme cost savings to the advanced speed and agility, companies across the spectrum have realized the value of migrating to cloud-based software. Besides the clear economic drivers, one of the biggest reasons is because of data quantity and quality. From ERP to reporting, every modern business needs to be able to easily manage, store, and access their growing piles of data more efficiently – and the cloud offers the scalability and flexibility to do it.  

This blog post will focus on cloud reporting – a relatively new concept in the Microsoft ecosystem today, where most third-party reporting systems are predominantly hosted on-premise. You will learn more about cloud reporting, including what it can do for your business operations and when you should choose it over an on-premise alternative.  

Cloud Reporting Defined

Your ERP system is designed to collect data, not analyze it. That’s why most companies invest in a third-party reporting and analytics solution to simplify report creation, run advanced queries, and track performance metrics. Like other business applications, you can purchase reporting and BI software built in the cloud for the cloud. Although the benefits are similar to most cloud solutions, it’s helpful to understand exactly what this technology means to you as a business owner.  

Cloud reporting is a modern deployment model for financial and operational reporting, where your report authoring tools and data sources are hosted in the cloud and accessed via a web browser. While you typically have control over your permissions and data model, a cloud service provider like Microsoft Azure is responsible for managing the network and servers – keeping all software and security updated at all times. With cloud reporting, you pay for what you use, and you can easily scale your services and functionality when business increases without worrying about crashes or unmaintainable server activity on site. 

The terms around cloud reporting have even more distinctions, most prominently: cloud-based vs. cloud-enabled. Here is a quick overview:  

Cloud-Based Applications:

Cloud-based or cloud-native applications (referred to as “cloud” in this article) are made for the cloud. They are built in the cloud and deployed in the cloud, therefore fully leveraging the advantages of the cloud infrastructure and delivery model.  

  • Designed to host multi-tenant instances
  • Highly scalable
  • Changes can be made without causing business disruptions
  • No hardware or software investments
  • Quick and easy to implement  

Cloud-Enabled Applications

Cloud-enabled software is technically what on-premise legacy systems use to become more “cloud friendly.” These applications were initially made for a static locally-hosted environment, with little to no consideration for cloud tools. Although on-premise applications can be rewritten to access some cloud resources, they cannot access shared services and require on-site hardware maintenance. Because these applications were not built to fit the parameters of the cloud, they cannot offer the same functionality and performance that true cloud solutions can.

  • Made on in-house servers
  • Need to customize for a specific installation environment
  • Require manual upgrades causing disruption and application downtime
  • Costly hardware upgrades and maintenance  

These distinctions are important because they will help you decide what reporting solution best fits your current business model.

For example, if you’ve invested in a serverless cloud ERP solution, like Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, a cloud-enabled application won’t provide you with the full cloud scalability and accessibility you need – plus, you’ll have to invest in a server to house your data. In this scenario, you would choose a cloud-based reporting solution that is more aligned with infrastructure and seamlessly integrates with your Microsoft Cloud model. 

Compare Reporting Options in Business Central

Read this blog to navigate the scope of available report building tools in Business Central and how to overcome some of the obstacles.


The Debate Between On-Premise vs. Cloud Reporting  

So far, we’ve covered some basics of what makes cloud reporting different from on-premise reporting software. But the reality is that there are many more third-party on-premise reporting solutions available for Business Central on the market today – and you will receive recommendations for them when you start looking for new reporting and BI software. Unfortunately, these systems are struggling to meet today’s standards for easy and accurate data management and reporting.  

In the Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem, we’ve talked to thousands of customers who are all experiencing the same problems with stagnant third-party on-premise software. Here are some of the issues they face:  

  • User interface is dated and difficult to use  
  • Slow report performance with no ability to run multiple reports at the same time without Excel locking up 
  • Heavy reliance on IT and technical resources to build and modify reports   
  • Data sources are not properly configured, and accuracy is unreliable   
  • Security risks and complexity of on-premise system upkeep  
  • Limited access to data and reports outside the office   

Due to the high costs and technical complexities, everyday users can’t build their own reports, access the data they need, and make decisions at the speed of business. And it’s a direct result of the technology they use. That’s what makes cloud reporting such a revelation in the cloud ERP and BI space. Its speed, unified platform, user-friendly interface, and instant scalability resolve many, if not all, of the current obstacles of on-premise reporting.  

Explore Business Central’s Top 7 Reporting Challenges
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10 Fundamental Advantages of Cloud Reporting 

We’re living in the age of data, where reporting and analytics have never been more critical to your success as a business owner. With the right tools and strategy, you can quickly refine how people perform their jobs and make decisions.  

Unlike its on-premise predecessors, true cloud reporting software equips businesses with the usability, accessibility, and flexibility to operate in a fast-paced environment. Here are 10 ways that you can clearly see how cloud reporting provides a competitive advantage:   

  1. Reduced Costs    
    Not having to host large servers in-house allows you to keep your maintenance and energy costs low and free up time for your IT staff and system administrators. Cloud providers offer pay-as-you-go pricing, which means you only pay for the services you use.  
  1. Enhanced Productivity  
    All cloud reporting solutions are conveniently accessible, incredibly fast, and built for modern users. By providing an intuitive experience, users can easily create, customize, and share reports in minutes – without waiting for technical expertise or report loading delays.  
  1. Seamless Integration  
    Cloud reporting platforms are built on cloud-native architectures that connect many applications, systems, and devices in near real-time. By leveraging one unified platform, you can minimize administration with a single sign-on and instantly scale your software in a few clicks.   
  1. State of the Art Security  
    Fueled by global cloud service providers like Microsoft Azure, cloud reporting provides all the benefits of having a large server and easy access to your data anytime, anywhere. Cloud platforms are highly customized, with built-in multilayered security and thousands of cybersecurity professionals working together to keep your data safe. To lower the risk of data loss, most cloud vendors are responsible for backups and disaster recovery and offer service-level agreements that guarantee 99% uptime.  
  1. Simplified Collaboration  
    By centralizing your data sources in a single platform, the cloud provides an easier method of sharing and co-authoring reports. It also provides enhanced collaboration tools like Microsoft 365 applications.  
  1. Increased Data Quality   
    A cloud-based data platform gives you a single source of truth to handle all your reporting, analytics, and data governance in one place. Typically powered by a reporting database, data mart, or a data warehouse to clean and organize data from multiple sources, cloud reporting always ensures accurate data is optimized for reporting at your fingertips. 
  1. Real-Time Insight  
    Cloud reporting and analytics solutions provide the data processing power required to access, aggregate, and analyze large data sets quickly. This allows users to find answers faster, identify critical business trends, and pinpoint areas that require improvement across your organization. 
  1. Fast Implementation   
    Cloud reporting applications can be updated, tested, and deployed quickly. The process of migrating data and installing the software is much more simplified than on-premise reporting software and can lead to a faster return on your investment.   
  1. Effortless Availability   
    Without having to be wired into any on-site hardware or desktop, your staff can access data and work collaboratively on reports from anywhere on any device with an internet connection.  
  1. Instant Scalability  
    Strategically scale your cloud resources to meet fluctuating demands. This increased business agility allows you to increase (or decrease) capacity, performance, storage, memory, and functionality as required – so your business can grow infinitely with no limitations.   

Experience Cloud Reporting Built for Business Central   

At Cosmos, we want to help people eliminate the burden of on-premise system upkeep and break free of its reporting limits. As the first (and only) cloud reporting and analytics solution designed specifically for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, Cosmos is built for users. Powered by Microsoft Azure cloud, Cosmos reports are easy to create, run at lightning speed, refresh simultaneously, and require no technical expertise to design and share custom reports and Power BI dashboards quickly and easily. 

If you’re reading this blog post, then you’re probably a current or prospective Business Central customer trying to find a solution for self-service reporting – or reporting on your terms. Watch this video and in 2 minutes you’ll learn exactly what makes Cosmos different and why we’re confident that it’s the right fit for you.

Why Choose Cosmos for Business Central Reporting

One of the biggest highlights of Cosmos is the sheer speed of generating regular financial and operational reports. On average, our cloud reporting solution is 48 times faster when running reports compared to other Excel-based on-premise solutions on the market today. So before you settle for a cloud-enabled or on-premise reporting solution for Business Central, witness the true speed and power of cloud reporting by booking a quick 30-minute demo below!  

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