Cumulus, stratus, cumulonimbus – and now, nonprofit. We’re taking you back to seventh grade science class for a lesson on clouds.
You may not have fluffy feelings about moving your organization’s data or programs to the cloud, but what if you really don’t know clouds, at all?
TechSoup reports knowledge has been the largest barrier to groups using cloud-based software. Even if you’re familiar with how the cloud’s flexibility and convenience can benefit your nonprofit, you might be holding onto some apprehensions that aren’t true.
Let’s clear up those myths about nonprofit cloud software right now:
1. It’s not secure.
Clouds are ephemeral. They’re fleeting will-o’-the-wisps of cotton in the shape of a bunny rabbit – oh wait now it’s a dragon – now a turkey on a pogo stick…
But software clouds aren’t so fuzzy. Handing the security reins to someone else requires trust, but software companies have put time and resources into ensuring a secure product. They are well-versed in the field, and are likely to stand up to hackers better than decades-old servers or your default IT guru (who is actually your volunteer manager who took a computer science class in college).
Among small and midsize businesses that participated in a cloud trust study by Microsoft, 91% said moving to cloud services had a positive effect on the security of their organization, and 94% said they’ve had security benefits (like up-to-date systems and anti-virus protection) that they didn’t get with an on-premises solution.
Plus, just as with science, there’s more than one type of cloud. There’s a public cloud (think Google Docs), a private cloud that lives behind your organization’s firewall (it’s like a cloud lassoed to your corner of the sky), and a hybrid, which is the most popular. (And, special for April 1, there’s the Google Actual Cloud Platform.)
How can you find out how secure your cloud is? Tech Soup advises checking to see if the vendor’s infrastructure (what protects your information) is based on frequently used manufacturers (which tend to be updated consistently), asking how the company handles changes, and finding out how they protect different sets of data with different security concerns. In addition, sit in the pilot’s seat in the buying process – don’t be afraid to be critical, as you are paying them for their service – and uphold your own responsibilities for using the software.
2. It’s expensive.
Cost is always a concern for nonprofits, and while change is scary, cloud-based software offers savings opportunities in that you won’t be paying to maintain your own servers, for maintenance, or for tech support if problems arise.
In the same Microsoft study, almost 70% of those included said they’d saved money since switching to the cloud.
Prices for the cloud are liable to keep dropping, according to npENGAGE. While it cost $569 to store a gigabyte of data in 1992 (most notably, the year Disney’s “Aladdin” came out), now you’ll spend two cents.
And, after any set-up fees (which are typically low or nonexistent, unlike licensed software), your cost should be regular and predictable. Most providers are upfront about the cost for their services, which are usually priced per-user per-month, so you can budget for your needs.
Which brings us to our third myth…
3. It will be hard to maintain.
Not only are you not paying for the updates to keep your system functioning in top form and at its most secure, but you won’t need to worry about making upgrades either. You get the benefit, but not the responsibility (not unlike puppy-sitting).
The same goes for trouble-shooting and tech support, as software providers are accountable for their products. Even your ad hoc IT specialist can put his or her energy toward fulfilling your nonprofit’s mission, not fighting server bandwidth battles.
Beyond the dollars you can save, moving to the cloud reduces the time and manpower your organization has to spend thinking about nonprofit software. Just imagine those resources working toward a transcendental goal.
Have any more advice on using cloud software at your nonprofit? Let us know in the comments below.
Looking for Nonprofit software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Nonprofit software solutions.