Nonprofits, to the cloud!

Remember the Microsoft commercials that always had the tagline, "To the cloud!"? For those unfamiliar, the software giant was promoting its cloud computing capabilities, or software that enables a user to access stored information, data and programs via the Internet instead of the hardware on a computer.

The term is thrown around a lot, but a recent Citrix survey found that 54 percent of Americans claim to have never used cloud computing services before, but ironically 95 percent of this group actually does, TechSoup reported citing Citrix results. Common online activities like social media, Gmail, online games and online shopping are all part of cloud networks.

Even online banking is technically using cloud computing services. For nonprofits, accepting online donations uses cloud software as well. Specifically, TechSoup Canada found that 93 percent of Canadian nonprofits use at least one cloud application, whether it's email, social media, or Web conferencing. Even donor management software and customer relationship management programs utilize cloud capabilities.

The study also found a number of reasons why so many charitable organizations embraced the cloud, with administration benefits cited as the most significant at 79 percent. The ability to streamline software accessibility, reduce system administration and fewer IT staff needed were a handful of reasons why cost was cited as another popular reason for groups switching to cloud computing.

Conversely, major barriers to implementing updated software included an overall absence of knowledge, cost, data security and lack of trust. 

Cloud computing necessary for SME's
For small to mid-sized organizations, a bad decision holds much more weight than it would in a larger charity. That reason alone could be a likely factor in deterring some groups from embracing the cloud because a lack of knowledge could prove costly. 

However, the technology could be more beneficial than some groups may believe. According to principal researcher of the annual SME Survey and World Wide Worx MD, Arthur Goldstuck, calls cloud adoption a "no-brainer" because it reduces overall system costs, increases reliability, security and management, he told South African industry website IT Web.

In adding the ability to collaborate with others and access the same information from any location with a secure network, cloud computing may directly benefit how nonprofits operate in the near future. In fact, TechSoup Canada found that 53 percent of nonprofits in the country planned on dedicating resources to shift its infastructure to a cloud-based system in the next couple of years. With industry trends leaning toward this new type of technology, charitable organizations are moving in a seemingly predictable path: To the cloud!

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