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Cloud Computing for Nonprofits; Are You on Cloud Nine? (Part 2 of 2)

  • 11 September 2012
Cloud Computing for Nonprofits; Are You on Cloud Nine? (Part 2 of 2)

Cloud Computing for Nonprofits; Are You on Cloud Nine? (Part 2 of 2)

In our last blog, we gave a brief introduction to Cloud Computing for nonprofits and some of its uses. To continue from where we left off, let’s go ahead and look into some cloud resources available to smaller nonprofits and the pros and cons of the cloud technology. There are a number of service providers who offer cloud computing services to smaller nonprofits but two popular ones are: 1. Google Apps for Business offers cloud based software and storage services for free to nonprofits that have less than 3,000 users. For nonprofits with over 3,000 users, the services are available for a subscription fee of $30/user/year. 2. Sumac Non-Profit Software also provides online database services starting at $25 per month for unlimited number of users and unlimited usage. Cloud computing is no exception when it comes to advantages and disadvantages of using a certain form of technology. The following are some of the pros and cons of the cloud computing technology to nonprofits in particular: Pros:

1.  ‘Green’ technology: By doing away with the need to maintain IT infrastructure   and concentrating all data in centralized data centers, cloud computing helps to utilize energy more efficiently and reduces the need to produce and dispose of IT hardware.

2.  Little upfront costs to buy and maintain servers and software. There will be recurring costs of the subscription fee.

cloud computing3.  Reduced need to have a specialized IT department: It is difficult for smaller nonprofits to have a huge IT department of their own. By migrating to the cloud, such organizations will need less in-house IT support since the provider will be responsible for the cloud.

4.  Convenience: the staff can access information from anywhere and at any time as need be.

Cons:

1.  Dependent on network connectivity: if the connectivity is lost or is too slow, then everything will come to a standstill. Accessing files and working with software will become a hassle.

2.  Security: the servers are maintained by an external party so there is always the threat of leaking of sensitive information.  To mitigate this risk to some extent, Patrick Callihan (executive director of NPower Pennsylvania) says, “before choosing a cloud service, ask to see an audit or certification of its security, backups, and maintenance practices. Determine what happens to your data if the company changes hands or goes out of business, and make sure your organization still owns the information and can take it from the cloud when you want it.” (The Chronicle of Philanthropy)

3. Ownership: How certain are we that we will have our data returned to us once we stop the service? Can we be sure that the providers will not destroy our data when we decide to terminate their services? 4. Privacy: Cloud companies/providers amass what seems like an infinite amount of data from their users. But do we know how much, if any, of our data might be used? All said and done, the cloud technology has made it easier to do business and many nonprofits have reaped benefits of the same. One thing to note is that the cloud is not a substitute for computers in your office; it is merely an addition to them to enable higher efficiency. Future advancements of the technology will bring new challenges but hey, doesn’t every cloud (pun intended) have a silver lining? Let’s keep a lookout for the advantages that future cloud technology brings. ~Ramya P.S: For another interesting read, check out this great article on how a small nonprofit saved $176,000 by using technology to its advantage. How a Small Nonprofit Made Simple Tech Tweaks and Saved $176,000    

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