What is the Cloud?
“The ‘cloud’ is simply a metaphor for the internet. It originates from when the internet was drawn in manuals and graphics surrounded by a cloud shaped bubble.”
So what’s cloud computing then? Cloud computing is when you save and access your computer’s information or programmes over the internet instead of using the memory of your PC or office server. And a cloud based service is any programme you either log into or access over the web – think your Gmail account, Spotify or Netflix.
More than 90% of non-profit organisations are using cloud computing today with half of them using multiple cloud services to meet their specific organisational needs. The chances are that your organisation, to a lesser or greater degree, has already made the leap to cloud based services.
However, a recent report from TechSoup found that once you get past email and file storage, most non-profits are still reluctant to embrace the cloud for their other organisational needs as the below graphic demonstrates:
Why are Non-Profits using Cloud Based Services?
Used correctly, switching to cloud services can save an organisation time and money. Instead of investing in expensive hardware, licensing software or hiring IT staff, cloud software allows many companies to share this cost through pooling the resources. To easily visualise this, let’s use the example of a library. Instead of each household buying lots of books, finding space to store them and installing bookshelves – a library allows many individuals to pay a small fee to access a far larger range of books as and when they are required. Cloud based service providers benefit from the exact same economies of scale, allowing organisations to reduce infrastructure and upfront costs as well as often benefiting from a better service.
Providers of cloud resources offer what is commonly referred to as software as a service, or SaaS. That includes services we use every day like email, messaging and phone calls, but it could also include file storage, fundraising databases, office programs and accounting software. With the leaps and bounds in recent technology, this is no longer an area purely limited to the largest and wealthiest organisations. As long as you have access to the web, you can use their services.
The Changing Landscape of Technology
Less than a decade ago, when you purchased a new piece of software, it came with several physical compact discs that you installed on your laptop. But in today’s environment, you only need an Internet connection from your laptop, smartphone or tablet to access those same types of programs and applications. The complex and time consuming installation process has been replaced with a simple login that allows us instant access to the tools we need to do our jobs.
On Site or The Cloud?
Much like buying a new car, the value of your hardware and licensed software exponentially decreases the moment you drive it off the lot.
Instead of this on premise model, the cloud functions on a “Pay as You Use” model, where you are only charged for the storage and specific services you require. Cloud service providers handle maintenance and accessibility issues, including security. And changes do not need to be applied to everyone’s individual computer. Licensing costs become a thing of the past. And your IT staff will be able to easily adjust resources to meet the demands of the team.
Simply put, we’re now living in a world where most daily tasks are conducted online through our computers, phones or tablets. Cloud vendors are growing at huge rates, creating a cost competitive landscape for individuals and non-profit entities looking to make the switch on a limited budget. Of course, there are questions for any organisation considering a switch from on premise infrastructure to the cloud. But for most, the quick benefits of saving time, money and technological headaches will be a welcome change.