What is the Cloud?
The cloud is access to servers offsite. This means that you can save and store data without the need to maintain in-house servers or a server room. You connect to the cloud via the internet and use secure connections to move data to and from the cloud. Experts believe that in-house server rooms will be obsolete in five years, so ready or not, the cloud is here to stay. As a non-profit, budgets are critical. By switching to the cloud, non-profits are able to easily save thousands annually, all while gaining more resources, security, and efficiency.
Non-Profits and the Cloud
Non-profits have huge savings opportunities by switching to the cloud. Many cloud providers offer discounted pricing for non-profits. Arguably the largest savings is with Microsoft Office 365. Through a brief application process, non-profits, can qualify for FREE cloud services. That’s right, completely free! Here are some of the plan offerings for non-profits from Microsoft:
- Business Essentials: Free for qualifying non-profits- online web versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc., email hosting and services, Skype for business, Sharepoint (a cloud server), data storage, and more.
- Business Premium/ E3: $3/month per user- Same as above, plus downloadable versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and other product options.
- Enterprise/ E5: $15/month per user- Same as above, plus an entire phone system and far superior security features.
Why Go to the Cloud?
Cloud services are incredibly scalable and flexible. You’re able to seamlessly adapt your cloud offerings as your business changes. You’re able to use the cloud for exactly what your non-profit needs, and nothing more. The Cloud even works great with non-profits who’s business model changes consistently throughout the year because you can easily scale up or scale down your services.
Arguably the top reason to switch to the cloud is disaster recovery. You are able to be covered for any kind of disaster; natural, cyber, or human error. With backups and replications, you’re able to have your data consistently backed up and protected so that you’ll never lose data again.
The cloud makes it easier than ever to share information and collaborate. Microsoft Office 365, in particular, comes with advanced collaboration programs and applications that are designed for communication within teams and organizations, and others designed for collaboration with clients/customers.
Work from Anywhere
You are able to access and work securely from anywhere. You’re able to access your files from any device, all with secure connections and encryption to protect your files.
By going to the cloud you gain access to industry-leading data centers to house your data. These centers have cutting edge security practices and measures that are impossible for individual companies to have on their own. As a non-profit you handle very sensitive information that can’t afford to be stolen or lost. Your data is more secure and safe being moved to the cloud than staying internally.
Misconceptions About the Cloud
The number one concern for moving to the cloud for most non-profit organizations is security. People often fear that since their data is not onsite and they can’t physically see or protect their servers that their data is less safe. This is untrue. Take Microsoft for example. By moving to Office 365 you gain access to Microsoft’s robust data centers that have hundreds of people working around the clock to protect your data. Also, they have state of the art security measures and protections in place. The measures taken to protect your data by a cloud provider are not possible for an individual organization to afford on their own. Most experts agree, that your data is much safer in the cloud than it would be on an in-house server.
The cloud is surprisingly affordable, even without non-profit discounts. Maintaining a server room is far more expensive than moving to the cloud. Having in-house servers are very expensive to purchase and maintain and they will need to be completely replaced every few years. With the cloud, you always only have your monthly subscription costs. As a non-profit the cost savings of moving to the cloud are significant.
Collocation vs. Cloud
Collocation- is when you own your own hardware and you put it out somewhere offsite: in a collocation facility warehouse etc. It’s your own personal cloud. You are still responsible for maintenance, hardware, security etc.
Cloud- is when you don’t own the hardware and someone else is housing your data and information: you’re not responsible for maintenance, hardware, security etc.
Reasons to Not Go to the Cloud
Speed is the number one consideration. If you have some software or a database that requires a ridiculous amount of horsepower that is above average for businesses, the cloud may not be able to meet your need for speed. Fortunately, cloud providers can allow you to test their capabilities before you migrate everything to ensure that it works for you. That being said, most businesses and non-profits notice no drop in speed in cloud computing.
Government contractors and some other organizations have very strong limitations and restrictions of what you can and can not put on the cloud. Therefore, it’s best to be familiar with your organization’s legal restrictions before moving to the cloud.
However, every case is unique.