Q: What does Cloud Computing mean?
A: ‘Cloud Computing’ means that the software system that you use is accessed via a web browser and instead of installing the software on a computer/server within your organization’s premises, the software resides ‘in the cloud’ – that is, on a server belonging to the software publisher or nonprofit solution provider. Instead of connecting to an internal server owned by your organization, you now use a web browser to connect to the software ‘in the cloud’.
Q: Why wouldn’t I want my fund accounting and fundraising solution on an in-house server?
A: The more software applications and users you have, the more servers you need. It takes people and money to maintain, upgrade, configure and secure those servers. If your nonprofit is lucky enough to have an IT department, you know that the IT team usually has more projects scheduled than they have time and staff to execute. Cloud-based solutions don’t require much, if any, IT intervention.
Q: What do I say to others in my nonprofit organization that don’t have confidence in Cloud Computing?
A: If they do online banking, if they’ve ever purchased products from amazon.com, or if they’ve watched a movie online from Netflix – they’ve used cloud computing. Amazon operates one of the most sophisticated supply chains in the world and enjoys the highest levels of customer satisfaction. Cloud computing is reliable and secure. Chances are – cynics within your organization are using cloud computing in several aspects of the life and just don’t know it.
Q: Isn’t my nonprofit data safer if it’s on an in-house server?
A: Surprisingly, no. Hacking isn’t the only way for criminals to get their hands on data. Every laptop and every thumb drive is an opportunity for data to fall into the wrong hands if lost or stolen. Sadly, there have been instances where offices have been broken into and servers (containing organizational data as well as sensitive employee information stored in the payroll system) were stolen.
Q: How safe and secure is my data on the Cloud servers?
A: Most nonprofits would find the security measures taken by Cloud software publishers to protect their servers and your data cost-prohibitive to try and duplicate. We’ve done the research to ensure that any cloud solution we recommend is housed in state-of-the-art data centers that employ multiple levels of security and data redundancy to protect your data. In many cases the Cloud software publisher employs encryption to add another layer of network security. They put in place transport-layer security encryption technology via VPNs to prevent unauthorized parties from intercepting network traffic. The required encryption software for clients is part of up-to-date client operating systems and browsers.
Q: How do I know the Cloud is right for my nonprofit?
A: We won’t recommend any solution, whether cloud-based or on-premise, if it’s not right for your nonprofit. Not every discovery meeting ends with us handing the client an invoice for new software. Often, we have shown nonprofits how to continue using the software they have. We’ve also referred organizations to other software providers if we didn’t have the right solution for them. We insist on doing what’s right for our clients.
Q: How are software upgrades handled?
A: Software upgrades are handled behind the scenes and typically done more frequently than traditional on-premise software solutions (which are usually upgraded every 12 – 18 months). You won’t experience any downtime. Every time you log in to your cloud solution, you are literally logging in to the newest version of the software.
Q: Is the functionality as robust as more mature on-premise solutions?
A: In many cases, these solutions have more functionality. But we won’t sell or recommend a solution that does not have the most appropriate feature set for your nonprofit.
Q: What are the risks of Cloud Computing?
A: From a security standpoint, the biggest would be human error, for example, selecting obvious passwords like “password” or employees divulging (whether intentionally or unintentionally) their user name and password. Having an internal security policy that is reviewed and enforced goes a long way in preventing human errors. From an availability standpoint you’ll want to make sure your Cloud computing provider can prove they keep your system available to you greater than 99.5% of the time, which is likely higher than your current on-premise system too!
Q: What are the benefits of Cloud Computing
A: Rapid deployment – it’s a lot easier to get you up and running quickly. Pricing is subscription-based and therefore can be designated as an operating expense rather than a capital expense. It gets you out of the IT business and allows you to focus on your mission.
Q: You make it sound like Cloud Computing is the most secure and hassle-free choice in the world. Is it really all that?
A: One way to think of it is: when was the last time your on-premise software solution went down – either unexpectedly or expectedly (in the case of asking everyone to stay off the system in order to upgrade)? Now, when was the last time you couldn’t access the Internet? Chances are whether you were in your car, on vacation, at a hotel, visiting relatives, eating at a local restaurant or having coffee at the coffee shop – you could find your way to a working Internet browser or use your smart phone.