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3 Characteristics and Benefits of Cloud Computing for Your Nonprofit

You may have heard that cloud computing can save your organization time and money. Here's how that works.

Cloud computing can be a bit of a difficult concept to wrap your head around. For a comparison, let's look back to the early 1900s. When a family wanted to have electricity enter their homes, they actually had to go and purchase a generator. They had to order it, wait for it to come, install it, provision it, maintain it, and fuel it. When the generator broke down, they had to wait for repairs. This was considered a self-service model of installing and provisioning electricity directly into one's home.

Today, thankfully, we have utility companies that provide electricity for us. We don't have to provision anything. We don't have to worry about any of the installations or repairs. We just pay for what we use. When we flip a switch on, we expect the equipment to turn on.

So similarly, provisioning your own servers and resources in your IT closet or datacenter was also a self-service model. And so was having to maintain those resources, all while paying an upfront cost for all those capital expenses. We are now in a new era where we are able to take advantage of cloud services. So now, when we flip the switch, we can expect that the service will turn on and that we will only pay for what we use. That is called cloud computing.

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Characteristics of Cloud Computing

There are three areas to consider when you consider cloud computing for your organization.

On-Demand Delivery

On-demand delivery means that you don't have to wait for anything. For example, you don't have to wait for hardware and servers to arrive for you to start your projects. In just a matter of seconds, you can have the technology you need at your fingertips. Think about your own email. In the past, you had to be at your office, on your organization's server, to access your work email. But with the cloud, you can access it from anywhere.

IT Resource Applications via the Internet

"IT resource applications" is just another name for "all things Internet." It encompasses everything from artificial intelligence to.desktop applications to database storage — perhaps for your donors or for your pictures or videos from a banquet or gala. That's what we are talking about when we are talking about IT resources that are delivered on demand via the cloud. Before, you would have to order these applications on a disk and upload them to your computer. Now you can simply download them from the cloud.

Pay-as-You-Go Pricing

Cloud computing pricing is similar to how you pay for utilities like water and electricity. You only pay for the services you consume. And once you stop using them, there are no additional costs or termination fees. Pay-as-you-go pricing means you no longer have to purchase and invest in capital costs. You pay only for the individual services you need for as long as you need them. And no long-term contract or complex licensing is required.

Benefits of Cloud Computing

So now that we have a pretty solid fundamental understanding of what the cloud is, let's discuss its benefits.

Stop Guessing at Capacity

The first benefit is that your organization no longer has to guess at capacity. Think about your smartphone and how it runs slowly when you try to use too many apps at once. When this is happening, you're trying to use more computing power than there is capacity available. But with the cloud, the growth of the computing capacity can happen automatically. Organizations used to buy for peak and overprovision to ensure that they had enough capacity to handle their nonprofit operations at the peak level of activity.

Giving Tuesday is a perfect example. On Giving Tuesday, many nonprofits need to increase their capacity for computing power. With the cloud, your organization's IT capacity can grow and shrink as demand grows and shrinks. This type of flexibility can save a nonprofit huge amounts of money.

Cost Savings

In addition to elasticity, we know that cost savings are important to all organizations, especially nonprofits. If you look at how people end up moving to the cloud, the conversation starts with cost. Pay-as-you-go pricing allows you to easily adapt to changing business needs without overcommitting budgets.

Increase Speed, Agility, and Innovation

When organizations have the opportunity to free up resources, in the way that we just mentioned (elasticity and pay-as-you-go pricing), the speed and agility in which your organization can operate and build up technology solutions can vastly improve.

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Additional Resources: Cloud Computing