- Cloud computing allows small firms to compete with giants, says Microsoft International's president
- 'The cloud' delivers computing services from a centralized provider, like a utility
- It removes the need for capital investment in expensive IT infrastructure
- He says the technology could prove instrumental in kickstarting Europe's struggling economies
Europe's struggling economies could find themselves thrown a lifeline from the "cloud," according to Microsoft International's president Jean-Philippe Courtois.
Cloud computing -- where businesses access computing services from a centralized provider, rather than owning their own infrastructure -- could be the key to kick-starting Europe's struggling economies, Courtois told CNN.
The shift in technology is the biggest in the past decade, and can transform the way businesses can operate, he added.
"You don't need to buy any more of [that] huge IT equipment, because you are actually using a service, like how you use electricity," he said.
Instead of investing capital in IT infrastructure, businesses can now opt for a cloud computing solution in which they pay as they go. "You just pay for the service you use when you need it," Courtois said.
This removes technological barriers that can hold back the small- and medium-sized businesses which are at the heart of the European economy.
"We see many small businesses jump on the cloud bandwagon right now, as opposed to the large companies, because they can ... compete with some big global players using an incredible technology for only a few euros a month. That is making a profound change, particularly in countries where the recession is pretty tough," he said.
"If you are a very small company today, you can have a much more visible and aggressive presence."
Cloud computing also allows for savings to be made by enabling workers in different locations to collaborate online, reducing paper waste and travel costs.
"We call it the new world of work, because people don't all necessarily have to come together physically," Courtois said.
As well as presenting opportunities for businesses, Courtois said cloud technology could allow governments to become more competitive. "When I go back to Europe, visiting Spain -- a very depressed economy -- we see some of the opportunity... to help governments rationalize their budget."
"If you look at predictions [for] the European economy, it doesn't look great at this point. But I'm very convinced again that the work we do is an enabler of economic transformations."