Nonprofit Cloud Solutions: Moving to the Cloud on a Budget
Here at Executech, we have a great appreciation for all nonprofits. The work they do for our communities and society is immeasurable. If you operate a nonprofit, we understand the difficulties you have to overcome to succeed in your mission. In this increasingly digital world, you have the challenging job of incorporating the latest tech while being constrained to extremely tight budgets.
To help give back to the nonprofits of the world, today we are going to talk about how your organization can move to the cloud, and how you can do it economically. We’ll teach you how you can save money and meet your budget while incorporating these technology tips.
Why Should Nonprofits Move to the Cloud?
Many organizations, especially those on tight budgets, are hesitant to move to the cloud because of the imagined expenses. However, one of the highest costs in IT is housing information yourself. Maintaining and powering a server room is extremely expensive. But, there is another option — the cloud.
Businesses and nonprofits alike can move to the cloud and save money as opposed to their on-premises infrastructure. By getting rid of servers and hardware, organizations no longer have to spend the money on maintenance, power, and rent for the space.
However, as much as the cloud might save you, we aren’t recommending you make the switch based on that alone. There are many factors that any organization needs to consider before deciding to move to the cloud.
Nonprofit Cloud Considerations
Firstly, we always recommend clients take a look at their internet. Do you have enough bandwidth? Also, do you have enough speed? You’ll want to ensure that it is redundant because when you’re using the cloud, if your internet goes down, so do you. If all of these factors are sufficient, your move to the cloud will be much easier.
Another consideration is what product(s) you will be using. There are a plethora of cloud products, with new ones popping up all the time. Some of the most common options are Office 365, G Suite, AWS, Dropbox, and Box. Each provider has different advantages when it comes to what you’re looking for in the cloud.
Both Microsoft and Google have free versions of their products for nonprofits, which definitely is something to consider. However, understand that as you are looking over both of these platforms, you will have to be approved as a nonprofit to receive nonprofit cloud pricing.
Microsoft Office 365 for Nonprofits
Because we work primarily with Microsoft, we are going to discuss Office 365 for nonprofits in more detail. The four most common products organizations choose from in the Office 365 suite are Business Essentials, Business Premium, E3, and, and E5.
Let’s start with Business Essentials, which is free for nonprofits. With the Business Essentials product offering, you get SharePoint, OneDrive, and Teams, along with the web and mobile versions of Word, Excel, Outlook, and PowerPoint. This product can be an excellent option for organizations that don’t need the desktop versions of these apps.
Business Premium and E3
The next two we are going to talk about are E3 and Business Premium, which are very similar. The deciding factor between the two is how many users you have. If you have more than 300 users, then you have to go the E3 route. But if your nonprofit is smaller, you can choose the Business Premium, which is only $3 per user per month for nonprofit organizations.
In comparison, the E3 offering is $4.50 per month. In both of these plans, you have access to the online and desktop versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. You also get SharePoint, OneDrive, and Teams.
Moving on to the last plan we will discuss, let’s get to know E5. E5 is the most expensive plan for nonprofits, at $14 per user per month. The result of the higher cost is a slew of features for its users. For example, this plan provides everything from the E3 program, along with extended security features and a complete phone system. The complete phone system included in the $14 might be less than some institutions already pay for a phone system, so this might be a big draw for some organizations.
Office 365 Products
After seeing what is offered in the different Office 365 plans, you might be wondering what some of the apps mentioned are.
Let’s start with OneDrive. A lot of companies and individuals misunderstand OneDrive. They try to use it to share files and documents with various users and find that it doesn’t work like they were expecting. However, that isn’t what OneDrive is meant for. OneDrive is actually intended for storing one individual’s data.
If you’re looking to share your files, you’ll want to be using SharePoint (hence the name). With this application, you can share your documents and presentations and set permissions for who can view and edit each file or folder.
If you know or have used Slack before, Teams is extremely comparable, with a few added benefits thrown in. You can chat, create group messages, send files, set up to-do lists, create video conferences, and more. It’s an excellent product for improving communication and efficiency in your organization.
Yammer is a fairly unknown Microsoft product, but it hosts some fantastic features. This helpful tool is essentially an online community of like-minded individuals. There are thousands of Yammer groups, all centered around a common theme or hobby.
For example, if your nonprofit involves helping orphaned children, there are Yammer groups surrounding this exact topic. So, with Yammer, you can find these groups and chat, share ideas, and learn from other members who are also interested in that particular topic.
Another exciting Microsoft product is Sway. We probably all know and have used PowerPoint before. Well, think of Sway as PowerPoint on steroids. This product lets you create presentations, but without the confines that a slideshow contains. It’s very visual and allows you to be a lot more creative and bold — you can really wow your audience with a Sway presentation.
To Do, Planner & Flow
Starting with To Do, which like its name implies, helps you keep track of what you need to do. Next, Planner is a useful project management software. It doesn’t have incredibly complex capabilities, but it has great features for where you can map out main projects, sub-projects, and individual tasks. And finally, Microsoft Flow is a workflow system that allows you to utilize if/then statements to automate a project.
Last but not least, let’s discuss Power BI. Power BI is a business intelligence tool that is useful to many individuals and organizations. With this tool, you can take data from many different sources and build reports in a single dashboard. As a result, individuals can easily visualize and track key performance indicators and success.
Ofice 365 is a great cloud product, but Microsoft has another cloud option that might be even more useful to some nonprofit organizations — Azure. Microsoft Azure is Microsoft’s server cloud platform, and Microsoft gives away $5,000 of Azure consumption every year to nonprofits for free. Depending on how much an organization is consuming in Azure, it may be able to cover its entire cloud infrastructure and servers for free.
In Azure, there are many different features and services that an organization can choose to set up. These services will cost you a little bit more because they are billed monthly based on consumption and other factors. However, depending on what your organization needs, these services may offer you much more value than they cost.
Azure Security Center
One service offered in Azure that we recommend and set up for all of our clients is Azure Security Center. With this service, you can sync the cloud with an on-premises server or a cloud-based server and receive updates on where you can improve your security. It provides templates and wizards for setting up secure servers and notifies you when there’s a threat.
Azure Active Directory
When you’re moving to the cloud, there are a few things that you will want to make sure you do, the first being user management. This includes ensuring you have a good password policy. Things such as locking a user out after a number of bad attempts and setting up multi-factor authentication will help your organization stay more secure. Microsoft offers a service called Active Directory in Azure that will help organizations manage this, and it’s inexpensive, which is great for nonprofits.
Azure SQL Database
Another Azure service that can be beneficial for nonprofits is SQL Database. Aptly named, this is a database system in Azure that has various features used for managing data. It’s an intelligent, scalable tool that provides seamless database migration into the cloud.
Azure Blob Storage
You can also use Azure for data storage. One common type of storage offered by Azure is Blob storage. This type of storage is ideal for unstructured data such as text or binary data. Blob storage can be beneficial for nonprofits because it offers large amounts of data that is easily accessible and affordable.
One key component to taking care of your nonprofit cloud is making sure it’s backed up. Microsoft offers a tool called Azure Backup that helps any kind of organization keep their data protected. By utilizing this tool, you can simplify your backup process and save money by getting rid of any other backup products you are using. From a virtual machine to a website, Azure Backup has you covered.
Azure Site Recovery and Acronis
Going hand in hand with Azure Backup is Azure Site Recovery. This is a tool we like to use for backup and replication. Replication is just taking a copy of your server and storing it in the cloud. We also recommend Acronis for backup and replication. With either of these tools, you have a full copy of your settings, configuration, users, and more so that if your server dies, you’re not left with nothing.
If you’re looking into moving to the cloud, you’ll want to consider a phone system. We mentioned earlier that Microsoft’s E5 plan includes a full phone system, which might be an easy answer for some large nonprofits. For others, we recommend you look into VoIP (voice over internet protocol). VoIP uses the cloud, and many providers offer nonprofit pricing. With this type of phone system, you can have various locations all synced together. There are many other great features and benefits too.
Nonprofit Cloud Assessment
In the end, you’ll want to ask yourself why you want to move to the cloud. Are you sick and tired of hardware failures? Do you want to protect your business better while staying cost-effective? Do you want to save money on buying, powering, and maintaining physical infrastructure? Any one of these pain points might be the reason you decide to make the switch.
As a nonprofit, you most likely are the custodian of a lot of data. Not only will the cloud help you secure your business, but it will also save you money. You may even be able to migrate with hardly any expense due to special pricing for nonprofits. If you want to see if the cloud is an option for your organization, contact us today. We are more than happy to evaluate your systems and offer a complete assessment at no charge at all.
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