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Not-for-Profit Enews Update: Cloud Computing for Nonprofits

by Katie Hansen - Staff Accountant

July 24, 2014


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Technology is an essential part of conducting business but implementing the newest tools can be a daunting proposition. Many non-profit organizations are apprehensive about getting started with cloud-based technologies due to concerns related to data security and migration costs. However, the main obstacle to implementation is a lack of knowledge about this technology.


So what is the “Cloud”? This simply refers to cloud computing, defined as the sharing of resources, software, and information through computers and other devices over a network. In recent years, many nonprofit groups have been utilizing cloud-based tools for e-mail and storage such as Gmail and Drop Box. Due to the ease of use, users don’t realize that they are utilizing cloud technology. The main difference between these applications and those that run on an office or home computer is the former run on an external network. An internet browser allows the user to interface directly with the application.


Despite these current uses of cloud computing by nonprofits, many organizations are still apprehensive about utilizing other cloud-based applications. Security concerns are one of the main barriers to cloud adoption. People usually relate internet-based technology with threats of hacking, identity theft, malware issues and phishing schemes. Many organizations contend that local computers, networks and servers are better protected than cloud-based assets. This may not be true in many organizations, especially small nonprofits. Major cloud service providers can invest far more heavily in security than the average business can, and small businesses remain more vulnerable. Migration costs are another concern when transferring to a cloud approach for sharing data. While there are many expensive services available offering more robust capabilities (often more than the small nonprofit may require), many cloud-based sites such as the aforementioned Gmail and Drop Box solutions are free to use while still providing a secure network.


Cloud computing may also be a cheaper alternative to applications run on local networks. Local computers are no longer required to perform the bulk of data processing. Instead, the external network of the cloud runs the applications. Thus, cloud computing may provide nonprofits with an alternative to large cash or capital expenditures because they can minimize purchases of software, hardware or other conventional technology by accessing applications via a cloud-based network. Now a local computer simply has to be able to log on to the external application, typically via an internet browser. Given these details, cloud computing may actually serve to minimize expenses for a nonprofit, while gaining improved control over financial and operational processes. Additionally, anyone with permission in the organization can access the system from any location, at any time. With cloud computing, nonprofit personnel can focus on the organization’s mission, rather than mastering hardware and software technology.


For many nonprofits cloud computing is a useful tool and benefits many aspects of an organization’s business. There are a large number cloud-based tools and it can be difficult to decide which is best for your organization. In order to decide, research the available cloud–computing options via the web, trade journals and discussions with peers in your area or industry. No matter which tools you choose, be sure all members of your organization are on the same page to avoid using multiple applications for the same task.


Sources:
https://nonprofitquarterly.org/management/21020-what-every-nonprofit-needs-to-know-about-cloud-computing.html
http://blog.cloud9realtime.com/nonprofit-organizations-moving-to-the-cloud/\
http://mashable.com/2011/11/16/non-profit-tools/
http://www.nten.org/articles/2014/how-nonprofits-can-get-started-with-cloud-based-tools
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/five-myths-about-the-cloud/2014/01/03/dd826052-7191-11e3-8b3f-b1666705ca3b_story.html

 

If you have any questions regarding the article above or any other issue affecting your not-for-profit organization please contact your Blue & Co. advisor or e-mail us at blue@blueandco.com or call us at 800-717-BLUE.