Note: This post was updated on February 13, 2019. Cloud-based software and infrastructure offer tremendous benefits to nonprofits, and yet some bosses haven't gotten the message. Many people are still holding on to the idea that keeping their IT services on-site is less expensive and keeps vital information safe, neither of which is true.
Most likely, the reason your boss, board of directors, and other key stakeholders haven't considered cloud computing is because they don't have the right information. If they see the benefits, they may be more motivated to make the necessary changes.
Here are five key benefits that you can use to convince them.
1. Save Money
There is a myth that cloud computing is expensive, in part due to the upfront costs that are associated with switching to cloud-based solutions.
However, the beauty of the cloud is that your software and servers are hosted online, where they are maintained and updated by the cloud provider. This means that your organization no longer has to pay for
- Server hardware maintenance
- Software updates, patches, and upgrades
- Security maintenance
- Staff time to do all that maintenance and upgrading
- Hosting costs for your servers (if they are hosted off-site)
The cloud provider handles everything for you, in exchange for a monthly fee — which for nonprofits is often deeply discounted or even free!
In addition to lower costs, the option to "pay as you go" on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis can be very useful in determining and managing your costs. And you can activate or cancel licenses as you need to, giving you a less expensive way of scaling up and down quickly as your program delivery requirements change. This is especially helpful for organizations that may have large influxes of volunteer-based work.
2. Save Time
There are a few ways that cloud computing can save time for your staff and increase your organization's overall productivity.
First, your IT staff will have fewer low-level tech issues to deal with and will have more time to dedicate to strategic tech planning and complex systems issues. This is because cloud-based systems are more reliable, especially if you have aging hardware. And cloud service providers usually have a dedicated team of experienced IT staff who can resolve your problems faster than if they were handled in-house.
Second, the added flexibility of being able to work anywhere means that if an employee can't make it in to work, that employee can still access your systems remotely. They just need an Internet connection — at home, at the library, at the coffee shop, or via a mobile hotspot like the ones from Mobile Beacon. They can continue working just as if they were in the office.
Third, since data is automatically backed up when you work on cloud applications and solutions, the time spent trying to recover documents or get access to files that may have been accidentally deleted is diminished. This all translates into higher employee productivity.
3. Collaborate More Easily
When you use cloud technology, all of your organization's data and files are accessible to everyone in the organization at all times. This benefit makes collaboration quite easy because remote workers, field staff, and volunteers can all access files while they are on field visits, at fundraising events, or working in the office.
Cloud technology makes communication with your team more convenient and robust. The cloud also enables new ways of working together even though the team members are not next to each other.
Working in the cloud means you can share files with faster response rates. It improves collaboration through instant access to files, co-authoring of documents, file syncing, and large file storage. These features cut out the sluggish transfer of files and the need for physical files.
Cloud technology enhances accountability with better record keeping, made possible by features such as time stamps. Time stamps improve team collaboration by establishing transparency and increasing accountability.
4. Scale Up or Down Easily
Having your IT services in the cloud offers easy and affordable scalability. With cloud computing, you can scale your IT up or down whenever you want to. There are no limits to how far or how fast you can scale up.
Also, applications hosted in the cloud are up and running in a matter of days, with lower costs to implement and maintain them. The scalability of cloud computing allows organizations to react faster and more flexibly to changing needs. You are also able to select the right licenses for your organization. You can pick and choose the licenses you need, at the time you need them, or stop paying for those you may not need.
So your IT staff will never have to ask for new equipment because there are no more network attachments available. A cloud system can grow on its own without limits and with the intervention of IT staff on an as-needed basis.
5. Stay As Secure As Possible
There's a myth that cloud computing is less secure than traditional approaches. This myth comes about because data and files are stored on servers that your organization doesn't control or own. But control doesn't always mean security. A system built with more rigorous security will be more secure than a system without a focus on security.
Cloud service providers' datacenters usually have multiple defenses in place to keep your data secure. Data stored in the cloud usually has controlled access, and only those allowed access can view it. Most cloud service providers have highly skilled professionals who regularly monitor the cloud infrastructure to identify potential security threats.
Most business enterprises and governments have moved their data to the cloud to take advantage of the high level of security that is available within cloud computing solutions. Nonprofits can take advantage of this same level of security for their own data. There are many cloud solutions that offer varied levels of configuration and security to make sure you can still control data the way you want to. And you can create alerts and warnings to help you monitor your data and users more seamlessly.
Check to make sure that any cloud solution you are considering has all these measures in place. If it does, it's safe to say that your data is more secure in the cloud than on any physical server.
Additional Resources: Working in the Cloud for Nonprofits
- The biggest concern in cloud computing for nonprofits is how to make sure your data is safe in the cloud. Learn more about How to Evaluate Cloud Security.
- Check out our blog post on What the Chip Vulnerabilities Mean for Cloud Computing.
- Read our helpful article on What Are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Cloud Computing?
- Take advantage of TechSoup's popular Adobe Creative Cloud offering.
- Find out about Intuit's cloud-based accounting software, QuickBooks Online.
- Explore all of TechSoup's cloud-based donated and discounted products.