Why small nonprofits are turning to cloud computing

publication date: Nov 25, 2011
author/source: Sumac Research
Cloud computing lets you use software, including applications, files and apps, over the Internet. It is often referred to as SaaS, or software as a service. The idea is simple. Instead of managing your software on your own server and performing your own backups and upgrades, you arrange for someone else to do all that online or "in the cloud," and you access it anywhere there is an Internet connection.

You might already be using SaaS and not even know it. Gmail works this way. You use the email program online. You don't need servers and storage, or a technical team to keep it up and running. You just login and access your data. Indeed, the Google search engine itself is a good example of SaaS.

Why nonprofits are using cloud computing

SaaS is becoming a popular choice for small and medium-sized nonprofits to manage their data for the following reasons:
  • Convenience With SaaS you can access your database anywhere there is an Internet connection. Since nonprofits' employees don't always work from a central location, this is a big selling feature. No more setting up VPNs to allow remote access to your servers. Employees can work from anywhere and get access to the database.
  • No servers With SaaS, you don't need to maintain a server or worry about backing up your data. It's better for the environment, since it requires less computer hardware and computing. With SaaS, TechSoup explains, "computing power is shared and concentrated more in high-efficiency data centres and less in the millions of office computer networks."
  • Little or no IT staff With SaaS there is less need for in-house IT staff. There is no server. Installations, upgrades, backups and standard maintenance are done for you, so there is virtually no network maintenance to be done. According to TechSoup, simplified network maintenance means fewer workers and less office space, which in turn means "more salary lines saved for use on your programs or delivering services to your community."
Common concerns

Of course, cloud computing comes with its concerns. If the Internet is down, you won't be able to access your data, so make sure you have a reliable connection. Some SaaS providers claim that they own your data once it's on their servers. Make sure you can get your data out when you need to. Finally, make sure the company holding your data is reputable and is in compliance with standards for data security.

Sumac is a complete, integrated software solution for nonprofits that tracks lapsed donors and distributes personalized electronic and paper communication easily and cost-effectively. Sumac is giving back to nonprofits by offering its software free to organizations with fewer than 500 contacts.

For more information, visit www.sumac.com

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