If there’s been a more talked about subject than cloud computing in the nonprofit tech world in the last 2 years, we here at Tech Impact sure haven’t heard about it. Cloud computing services have been on the tip of every nonprofit leaders’ and IT team members’ tongue for some time, and it’s not likely to leave.
As a result of all the buzz surrounding the new technology, there’s a lot of information on the topic out there, a lot of which conflicts with one another.
The bottom line that most nonprofit executives and board members are looking for is pretty simple. What can cloud computing do for my nonprofit? How much does it cost? How safe is the information online? What’s the downside?
Here is exactly what you need to know about the cloud. No fluff. Just the nuts and bolts.
What exactly does the cloud do?
The quick definition of the cloud is the delivery of computing power and information through any internet connection. This means, the computing power needed is essentially available on-demand, as long as an internet connection is available and an internet browser.
This is great for many nonprofits who are extraordinarily busy one season, then a bit slower during another. This idea of computing power on-demand means that you're only paying the power, and capabilities you need when you need it, instead of all the time.
While this is incredibly enticing for many, it is important to not become enamored with all the bells and whistles and buy more than you need. Fortunately, most cloud providers offer 30-day free trials, making it possible for you to test out a service, and decide whether or not it is exactly what you need before making a financial commitment.
How will my nonprofit benefit from the cloud?
Perhaps you need to store constituent information in a more organized way, or maybe it is the ability to deliver documents and information to employees in the field, or maybe you’re just looking to cut down on the cost of your IT. These are all basic examples of how a cloud system can have an immediate impact on a nonprofit.
Whatever the case may be, make sure you understand what it is you want to accomplish through the cloud, make sure it is detailed clearly, and your goals are accomplishable. Try making a wish list of all the thing you want your cloud to help you accomplish before making the investment, and ensure that the cloud solution you choose is able to meet all of those goals.
How much does it actually cost?
Cloud providers are typically extremely transparent with their pricing plans, which often include a price per-user, or monthly payment plan with opt-out options. If a cloud vendor is being less transparent than you’d like them to be, that should be a huge red flag.
There are costs that your nonprofit must consider outside of just the service charge. That of course being the cost of training, integration, staff time and organizational implementation. All of these required an investment at some level by the nonprofit organization.
The bottom line is, cloud computing has brought very powerful computing power to a price range that is manageable for the vast majority of most nonprofit.
Is my data safe?
This is where doing your homework and picking the best cloud provider is imperative. The reputable cloud providers will offer you a service level agreement, have the best security technology backing up your data, and supply data backup and recovery as a part of your package.
The real answer to the question, though, lies in who you allow to access your cloud. It is important to ensure that everyone who has access to the data that’s in your cloud is allowed to see that information, and is trustworthy enough to not disclose that information anywhere else.
What is a downside of using a cloud?
While we here at Tech Impact do not see any glaring negatives to using the cloud, but there are a few things you need to clear up or understand before investing in the cloud.
For example, is your internet connection robust enough to handle thew computing requests? Does the cloud computing service work on multiple browsers, or is it limited to just one or two? Is there a mobile app that coincides with the service? Does this mobile app work on devices, or just a select number? How will my current data be migrated over to my new system?
The answers to these questions are often not readily apparent, but armed the right knowledge, and knowing what to look for will make preparing yourself and your nonprofit for whats ahead!