Should Nonprofits Care About Cloud Computing?

jeanscricketInternet and Web Development

Nov 3, 2013 (3 years and 9 months ago)

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Should Nonprofits Care About Cloud Computing?

Maybe! Because it can save you time, money, and help the environment. Cloud
computing enables computer software and hardware resources to be accessed over the
Internet without the need to have any detailed or s
pecific knowledge of the infrastructure
used to deliver the resources.

Current examples are
Gmail
,
Yahoo mail
,
Google Docs
,
Salesforce
, and
Microsoft Office
Live Workspace
. They are often called software as a service (
SaaS
). A company provides
access to their software applications over the Internet and you access it through your web
browser. If you are using email hosted by a company, like one of those mentioned above,
you and your staff don't have to manage an in
-
house ema
il server like Exchange. You
simply sign up for the accounts and all the back
-
end stuff is handled for you.

There are
other types of cloud computing other than software as a service. There is infrastructure as
a service (
IaaS
), where you get the servers set up and hosted for you, but your team
installs, configures and maintains the software applications. There is also platform as a
service (
PaaS
), which essentially means a hosted application development environment
for those who are building or customizing their own software.


Benefits:
Little to no upfront costs
, but watch out for recurring operating costs.

No IT
staff

required
:

this might be an oversimplification, but many applications available in
the cloud require much less in
-
house IT support because the hosting provider takes care
of installs, upgrades, backups and standard maintenance for you.

No servers
:

need to
be
researched, purchased, maintained, or recycled.

Rapid deployment:

Often, accounts can
be set up in minutes
.

Convenience:

Staff and volunteers can access your applications
from almost any Internet connection with their login information.


Risks
:
Loss of
connectivity
means loss of access to your software, infrastructure, and
data. Also, if you have a slow or unreliable connection, cloud computing isn't right for
your mission
-
critical needs.

Service levels:
Make sure that the provider is reputable and
provi
des an acceptable level of uptime and rapid response to issues.
Regulatory
Compliance:
If you need to be
HIPAA
-

or
PCI
-
compliant

or conform to other
regulations, make sure your service provider is certified.
Backups:
Make sure you have
copies of and access to your data, especially if your service should fail.
Security:

There
are a
variety of concerns

about storing sensitive client data in the cloud due to privacy
and security standards, that include not only regulatory compliance issues like those
mentioned above, but also data security for phishing, sp
amming, and hacking concerns.
The jury is still out on some of these issues, so for the time
-
being, we recommend caution
when storing sensitive financial or personal information about your supporters and clients
online.


Conclusion
:
Small to medium
-
sized n
onprofits can benefit financially and
environmentally from using cloud computing. It saves energy, reduces the amount of
hardware needed, and is often technically easier to install and maintain than
in
-
house
applications. However, n
ot every IT function sho
uld be migrated to "the cloud," so you
should discuss your situation with your IT staff or a consultant.


Other Resources

Some of the major cloud
computing service providers
: Dell, VMware,
Sun Mi
crosystems, Rackspace US, Star UK, IBM, Amazon, Google, BMC, Salesforce,
Microsoft, and Yahoo


The above are excerpts from:
Anna Jaeger, Co
-
Director of TechSoup's GreenTech
Initiative
.
If you have any questions about this article or just another tech quest
ion, please
contact me David Fowler email: executivedirector@computerbanc.info.