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Technology and Nonprofits: How the Cloud is Helping NonProfits to Achieve More

In the contemporary digital age, many businesses are ditching onsite data storage for cloud-based storage.  They are harnessing numerous benefits from cloud computing ranging from lower costs to accessibility and improved security. In fact, 81% of American businesses use the cloud as a source of competitive advantage.

Luckily, the benefits of cloud computing extend far beyond the commerce world. Nonprofits can also use the technology. Nonprofits are leveraging cloud computing in numerous ways to be the best in class and do more good. In 2012, TechSoup conducted research on 10,000 non-profits to determine the prevalence of cloud computing among them. The survey revealed that 90% of the nonprofits use some form of cloud technology ranging from email to file storage and productivity applications. This article examines how the cloud is helping non-profits become the best they can be.

Reasons your nonprofit should embrace cloud computing

1.   Increases collaboration

In most cases, nonprofit employees do not work from a central location. Cloud computing allows remote access to information to increase collaboration.

2.   Decreases upfront expenses

Many nonprofits spend tens of thousands of dollars to buy expensive hardware and software for their on-site data centers. However, there’s a better option. Cloud computing does not require huge upfront fees and you pay for what you use. Also, you incur minimal startup costs and predictable quarterly expenses.

3.   Environment-friendly

As a non-profit, it is probable that you prioritize the environment and strive to minimize your carbon footprint. Cloud storage is environment-friendly because it reduces energy use and carbon emissions.

4.   Quick deployment

Cloud computing allows for quick deployment that saves time. You can get a cloud computing account running is a few minutes.

5.   Maximized security

It is estimated that a laptop is stolen every 53 seconds. What if the main laptop for your nonprofit is stolen? This is disastrous especially if the laptop contained sensitive data. The thief may use the information stored to harm your nonprofit and its stakeholders. At best, your reputation is damaged and you incur huge financial losses. Cloud computing maximizes security because you don’t need to store information locally –in laptops.

Security in the cloud is higher than that of a computer. Additionally, many nonprofits do not have the funds to invest in data security measures making them easy targets for hackers. The good thing with the cloud is that there are many innovative encryption tools for data at affordable costs.    

How the Cloud is Helping Nonprofits become the best they can be

Cloud computing is helping nonprofits become the best they can be in numerous ways including;  

1.   Cutting costs

Among the biggest benefit of cloud computing is cutting costs. Non-profits aim to save as much money as possible where they can. The cloud can help a nonprofit reduce costs while increasing efficiency. It reduces IT costs because a non-profit no longer requires hardware and software to support its on-site data center that comes with expensive installation and hefty maintenance expenses. Also, you save more money from reduced energy bills and lower labor costs –you don’t require IT professionals for your data center.

Habitat for Humanity of Omaha is a prime example of a nonprofit that is benefiting from cloud computing significantly. It focuses on constructing and renovating homes for the low-income population. Before migrating to the cloud, the nonprofit paid an IT consulting firm about $2,000 each month to manage its email server. After migrating to the cloud, the nonprofit has achieved massive savings that it channels to building homes.    

2.   Reducing carbon footprint

The current era of immense global warming and climate change calls for organizations in and out of commerce to cut their carbon footprint and work towards sustainability. Nonprofits are in the forefront of lessening global warming and climate change. Cloud computing is helping nonprofits to cut their carbon footprint and keep the planet green.

Data centers that host cloud services are energy efficient as compared to onsite data centers that are energy-intensive. Recent research by Google Apps revealed that an organization can save approximately 68-87% in energy consumption and carbon emissions by simply ditching onsite data centers and shifting to the cloud.     

3.   Offering unmatched scalability

Many nonprofits are quite unpredictable with constant changes in donations and volunteers. The cloud offers nonprofits unmatched scalability to meet their growth needs. They can scale up and down depending on their current needs. During peak seasons, the cloud helps non-profits to scale up –maybe they need more storage for large fundraising events. In low seasons, they can scale down to save money.  

4.   Save Time

Nonprofits operate on scare resources, including time. The cloud saves them countless hours that can be diverted to concentrating on their true course. Rather than spending thousands of hours on expensive and time-consuming IT infrastructure, they focus their time and effort on services, programs, and missions.

The cloud saves time spent on the deployment of on-site data centers, office-based tasks, and administration tasks. Notably, using cloud-based apps, you can save time spent on tedious office work.

5.   Enterprise-class data security

Like most enterprises, nonprofits depend on data to gain insights for decision-making. Whether you are an international charity or a local organization, your data is of great concern. The cloud offers enterprise-class data security and backup services to ensure the safety of your data. Also, unlike on-premise data centers that are vulnerable to data loss and unauthorized access, cloud storage is not. The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County switched to the cloud to ensure the safety of its data in the event of a natural disaster or server crash.

However, the cloud is not all sunshine and rainbow concerning data security. For example, when using a platform like Office 365, in case you lose your data, you can’t restore it. Imagine a new volunteer accidentally deleting a folder containing your donor leads. How do you recover? It is essential that you devise a suitable backup plan to cover such incidents.        

6.   Improving productivity and collaboration

A nonprofit is not a one-man show. It comprises of many people including stakeholders, grant writers, and board members. However, these people may be located in different locations and need to collaborate. Cloud computing allows for remote access whereby different people access information regardless of their location and time. As long as the different parties have internet connection, they can share data. Cloud computing offers a way to share information effectively and securely which, in turn, increases productivity and mobility.

Habitat for Humanity of Omaha has about 90 employees and runs two home improvement stores. The employees use OneDrive for storage, SharePoint Online for document management and Skype for virtual meetings and messaging. They also edit Excel spreadsheets in real time. Using Office 365, employees can work remotely from home, travel location, or job site. All these cloud storage platforms improve productivity because employees are not limited by time and distance.

Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) is a nonprofit based in Backus, Minnesota. Its mission is offering clean and long-term energy solutions to low-income communities. The nonprofit relies on the cloud to connect its employees who mainly work remotely. The employees work remotely because they have to meet with clients, attend conferences, and install solar panels in the region.

Thanks to the cloud, the employees can access the data and applications they need anytime, anywhere. RREAL employees use Skype for business to communicate with others and SharePoint online to manage files and collaborate. With cloud computing, employees of RREAL are not limited by distance and time. They collaborate effectively thus increasing productivity.

RREAL Director Jason Edens recalls a situation where cloud computing enabled his team to work remotely, engage, and exchange data. In 2015, RREAL was raising funds to construct a solar electric microgrid in Liberia in a bid to boost education and healthcare. Edens visited one of the hospitals in Liberia where he uploaded the measurements to his staff in Minnesota. The staff worked on the measurements and used SharePoint online to send back preliminary sketches for the hospital. Consequently, Edens shared the sketches with the hospital’s administration. Incredible, isn’t?     

7.   Enhancing fundraising opportunities

Web-based fundraising is one of the most rewarding for nonprofits. It is revolutionizing the way nonprofits solicit for funds to meet their needs. The cloud’s scalable infrastructure and software helps nonprofits to manage peak seasons when there is a big funds drive. The cloud-enabled web-based fundraising is a necessity as more people use their smartphones to connect with their preferred causes.

Cloud computing can enhance efficiency and data safety for for-profit and nonprofit organizations. As nonprofits strive to decrease operational costs, concentrate on their mission, and maximize efficiency, cloud computing becomes a must-have.  The cloud offers charities an opportunity to cut costs while being best in class. Although many non-profits claim that costs keep them from migrating to the cloud, there are many affordable cloud options that they can take advantage of. Also, cloud services are more economical than traditional licensed software and IT support. Contact Applied Innovations Corporation for secure and reliable cloud services that transform your nonprofit to the best it can be.

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About Jess Coburn

It's Jess's responsibility as CEO and Founder of Applied Innovations to set the direction of Applied Innovations services to ensure that as a company we're consistently meeting the needs of our customers to help drive their success. In his spare time, Jess enjoys many of the things that made him a geek to begin with. That includes sexy new hardware, learning new technology and even a videogame or two! When you can’t find him at the office (which admittedly is rare), you’ll likely find him at the grill or in front of his smoker getting ready for some lip-smacking ribs to enjoy with his wife and two kids.

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