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What is the Cloud, and is it right for your organization?

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By now, most in the nonprofit world are familiar with the Cloud, although many are still not taking full advantage of its numerous benefits.

Let’s start with the basics. Simply put, the cloud refers to software and services that run on hardware owned and operated by a third party provider.  The information is stored in massive, off-site data centers instead of the organization’s own internal servers and computer hard drives. Heard of Apple’s iCloud or Dropbox? They are just a few of the many cloud services available to the public.

To put into perspective how popular the cloud has become, spending on cloud services at the end of 2015 was projected to surpass $180 billion! 

But why is the cloud a good choice for you? Here are a few reasons:

  • Scalability – Easily grow, or scale back, depending on individual needs.
  • Disaster Recovery – Backup and recovery mechanisms are built into cloud technology, which save time and headaches downstream.
  • Automatic Updates – An organization doesn’t need to worry about regular software updates – the cloud partner handles system maintenance on their behalf.
  • Work Where You Want – Staff doesn’t need to be chained to their desk to get the work done. Cloud-based file sharing apps storefiles in a central location, allowing teams to access, share, and work on documents from anywhere, all in real-time.
  • Security – Lost and stolen laptops happen frequently. Since data is stored in the cloud, and not on a machine, recovery of the information is instantaneous. Data security is another key area where cloud technology outweighs what an organization can do on its own.
  • Competitive Advantage – Moving to the cloud allows access to enterprise-class technology for nonprofits, which previously was a luxury only the big boys could afford.

Once an organization has made the decision to move to the cloud, it then needs to understand the different types of clouds available and what will work best for their specific needs. Types include:

  • Public - the entire cloud is available for public use;
  • Private - the cloud is used by only one entity;
  • Community - the cloud is shared by several organizations, usually in the same industry
  • Hybrid – this is using a mix of private and public cloud. Organizations can store less critical information on a public cloud and mission-critical data on a private cloud.

But how does this apply in the real world? A good example comes from Washington, D.C.-based American International Health Alliance (AIHA), an international nonprofit organization working to advance global health in 34 countries.  

As a nonprofit, AIHA had concerns about the costs involved in potentially investing in new hardware and a sufficiently high level of security to prevent a breach. But after reviewing the options and choosing a strategy that was right for them, AIHA was pleased with the results.

AIHA became more agile and flexible, without concerns about hardware or physical space and had 24/7 access to the files, from anywhere in the world. The cloud solution also offered users a secure environment at an affordable price-point. This virtual move also saved them money. Initial estimates showed a conservative cost savings of 10-15% over their previous on premise infrastructure, but after deployment, the actual savings was more than 35%.  For more information about AIHA, check out the organization’s GuideStar Nonprofit Profile. 

For any nonprofit, the bottom line is moving to the cloud makes good business sense. Just make the move cautiously and ask questions every step of the way to make certain the system you choose provides the greatest benefits for your particular operation.

DaneshHussain.pngThe preceding is a guest post by Danesh Hussain. Danesh Hussain is the director of network services at  American Technology Services, Inc. (ATS®),  a leading provider of comprehensive IT, web design and development services. Danesh is proficient in the management and implementation of IT, with progressive involvement in business strategy development, project management, and oversight of system implementations and upgrades. Founded in 1994, ATS® has a strong track record of providing high-quality services to organizations of all sizes, including non-profits. For more information, visit www.networkats.com or email marketing@networkats.com. 

Topics: Technology Trends Data