The following is a guest post by Shawn Kendrick, a researcher and blogger for VolunteerHub, a cloud-based volunteer management software application that offers online event registration, email and SMS (text) messaging, report generation, and much more. This is the second in our VolunteerCorner series – focusing on what you need to know about volunteering for nonprofits.
The term “cloud computing” is all over the place: in advertisements, in industry news, and just about anywhere related to technology. But what exactly does the term mean? What can the cloud do for non-profits… and can it be trusted?
What is the Cloud?
Cloud computing simply means that services are hosted on a remote server instead of on your own. Often you’ll see this expressed as Software as a Service (SaaS). Essentially, you pay for the use of the software, but you don’t have to download anything. Think about all the online services you can use from any computer that’s connected to the Internet. These are all SaaS products, better known today as cloud computing services.
What Can the Cloud Do for Your Organization?
Simply put, cloud computing can save your organization a lot of time and money. Because the onus of hosting is on the provider, your agency won’t have the hassles and costs of server maintenance, data storage, and software upgrades. Naturally, this lowers your IT costs significantly. From a purely business standpoint, you’ll also notice that most SaaS services are subscription-based, letting you spend your money as you go. Traditional software requires more upfront costs. At the speed technology advances, it may be wise to save your investment to remain flexible. In other words, why spend a bunch of money upfront when the product may be obsolete before you even see a return on your money?
Trusting the Cloud
Because a server and software disk aren’t on your premises when using cloud services, many decision makers have a hard time “letting go” and trusting cloud providers. However, you’ll find that cloud services are extremely reliable. The plain truth is that the best cloud providers have more resources than the average nonprofit organization to put toward system stability and security. Let’s take a look at VolunteerHub as an example. Using the most technologically-advanced firewall commercially available, VolunteerHub has servers that are under 24/7 monitoring, with numerous redundant Internet connections. All information is mirrored to a back-up disk in case of a hard drive crash. Then data is taken each day from VolunteerHub’s primary data center to an off-site location in case there is a catastrophe at the main location. When viewed from this perspective, data security and back-up from cloud-based applications tend to far exceed that of most nonprofits’ on-site strategies.
With this explanation of the cloud, it’s clear to see what all the fuss is about. Cloud computing is changing the way organizations manage IT infrastructure. Now a nonprofit can afford cutting-edge services with less investment, freeing up money and resources to help further its cause.
Shawn Kendrick holds an MBA from Ohio Dominican University and has over a decade of experience in the nonprofit and business sectors.