As cloud computing moves everything we do and store onto the internet, the necessity of on-site software and on-site data management continues to shrink. Our entire lives are making their way onto the cloud, from pictures and music to spreadsheets and Word documents.
Nonprofits have a great opportunity to take advantage of this technology, especially in regards to membership management. It is important to understand the changes, positive and negative, cloud computing is making to membership management before taking the plunge.
Here is how cloud computing is changing membership management software, from the benefits to the drawbacks.
Less on-site hardware
Hardware can be expensive and hard drive crashes are inevitable. Since hardware never lasts forever, it is best to have your data backed up somewhere.
Rather than purchasing an external hard drive and tons of software discs, the cloud provides a virtually infinite digital hard drive for you to store all of your member data. It doesn’t matter if you spill your coffee on your work laptop or if you happen to toss your computer out the window of your 30-story office building, your data will always be available to you on the cloud.
Besides, haven’t we all wanted to do this at some point?
With the cloud your data is always accessible, even if your computer makes a long drop from your office window, so long as you have an internet connection.
I was shocked when I found the statistics regarding electronic device theft.
According to a study cited by Channel Pro Network:
- One laptop is stolen every 53 seconds.
- 70 million smartphones are lost each year, with only 7 percent recovered.
- 4.3 percent of company-issued smartphones are lost or stolen every year.
- 80 percent of the cost of a lost laptop is from data breach.
- 52 percent of devices are stolen from the office/workplace, and 24 percent from conferences.
Nonprofits live and breathe data, much of which is made up of highly sensitive personal information, including but not limited to social security numbers, bank accounts, phone numbers, and personal addresses. A stolen laptop with on-site membership management software is a treasure trove of personal information waiting to be breached and exploited.
Cloud computing alleviates these concerns. Holding data in the cloud on off-site servers behind logins creates another barrier of security around member data that would otherwise be accessible if stored on a stolen laptop.
Cloud computing affords you new security measures such as third-party data monitoring and potentially more sophisticated encryption depending on your own nonprofit’s network and data security skills.
Work anywhere from any device
Imagine you are getting on a plane to head to a nonprofit conference but then you suddenly realize that you remembered your personal computer but somehow you left your work laptop back at the office. If you are using on-site membership management software this can create problems for your work. All of your data, presentations, and all other relevant work data are stuck back at the office while you sit helplessly strapped into your seat.
Cloud computing renders this scenario moot by making all data and work resources available on any device with an internet connection.
This also opens the door for telecommuting employees. Not all qualified employees are willing or able to move their entire life to another city or state in order to work. Telecommuting opens the door for potential employees in such a situation and cloud computing enables telecommuting.
In fact, according to Telecom Channel Blog, companies with fewer on-site workers incur lower “fixed cost structures.” Since nonprofits have a higher incentive to pinch pennies than their for-profit counterparts, the opportunity to attract talent to their cause without incurring higher costs than necessary is always a benefit. Membership management software in the cloud makes such work possible.
Easy Expansion and Scalability
The cloud is very elastic. You can boost your member list limits with a few simple clicks and most likely an extra charge, whereas on-site data storage upgrades may require hardware upgrades or additions.
Database performance is also scaled to be able to handle large and small requests for data. This means that process speeds will remain consistent no matter the size of your request, which saves you time in processing and downloading your member data.
Security and privacy risks
Yes, security may be a pro for cloud computing in membership management software, however it also has it’s drawbacks and concerns.
As mentioned before, there are benefits to the cloud, such as third-party data monitoring, however there is always risks to releasing the responsibility of guarding your data to someone else. That someone will have access to that data, as will the government as revealed in the Snowden NSA leaks. The truth is, you can’t always be sure about the intentions of others, including companies or the intelligence community.
Steve Santorelli, the manager for outreach at the Internet security research group Team Cymru put it best:
“No business is ever going to be as rabid about looking after your data as you would or should be. They are in the business of making money from you, after all. Securing your data sometimes becomes a marketing mantra more than a way of life,” he said.
Of course there are risks with both on-site and cloud data storage. Hackers and others with malicious intentions didn’t begin their attempts to steal or sabotage data with the invention of the cloud.
Cheaper in the short run but more expensive in the long run
Cloud data management is also known as a “software-as-a-service” (SaaS) and in 2009, Gartner fact checked some of the most common assumptions about SaaS, including the assumption that SaaS was less expensive than on-site solutions. The results were mixed.
It turns out that although SaaS has a lower total cost of ownership for the first two years, as an organization or business grows, it becomes more cost effective “from an accounting perspective” to shift over to an on-site system.
Therefore, cloud-based membership management is best suited cost-wise for new nonprofits which are still establishing themselves and don’t have the immediate capital for an on-site data management system.
Cloud-based membership management software you ought to try
Capterra Rating: 5/5
Price: $160/month if billed annually, $200/month if billed month-to-month
Capterra Rating: 5/5
Price: Basic is free, Pro is $30/month, and Premium is $100/month
Capterra Rating: 5/5
Price: Varies greatly based on member number, starts at $50/month
Capterra Rating: 5/5
Price: Calculated based on member number, includes one-time setup fee
Do you use cloud based membership management software? What are some benefits and drawbacks you have you experienced? Let us know in the comments below!
Looking for Nonprofit software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Nonprofit software solutions.