Cloud computing is everywhere, and it’s here to stay. “[Cloud] technology is no longer novel. In fact it has become the dominant paradigm in IT,” says Jim Lynch, of TechSoup. But despite its pervasive use, 39 percent of all foundations maintain their software and infrastructure in-house, according to a 2014 report co-written by the Technology Affinity Group (TAG) and the Grants Managers Network (GMN).
Maybe transitioning to the cloud seems like an insurmountable hurdle; maybe you’re worried you’ll lose all your data if you move to the cloud; maybe the cloud simply remains a vexing mystery to you.
We’re here to tell you: There’s no reason to fear the cloud. In fact, migrating to the cloud is a great idea for your foundation or nonprofit organization. And here’s why:
- SECURITY: THE CLOUD IS VERY, VERY SECURE.
Perhaps the most common complaint against cloud computing is security. Users are worried they’ll lose their data or that they’ll be hacked, and all their data will be compromised. Cloud software engineers are well aware of your concerns, so they’ve built iron-clad security measures into their software. “Cloud companies work feverishly to avoid crashes,” says Lynch of TechSoup. “It’s guaranteed that crashes will happen. But now, crashes happen far less, because back-ups are built into cloud technology like crazy. They back up data at least five times an hour.” That’s right: The cloud backs your data up for you.
Of course you can back up your data on your own as well. When the few-and-far-between crashes happen, you’ll have your ownback ups, on top of those your cloud system automatically saves.
As far as external intrusions go, the cloud is equipped to battle those, too. Cloud vendors work nonstop to ensure your data remains for-your-eyes-only, which means that you ultimately don’t have to think (too much) about security.
- FLEXIBILITY: CLOUD COMPUTING LETS YOU GIVE YOUR STAFF ULTIMATE FLEXIBILITY
The way we work is changing rapidly. Being productive no longer means sitting at your desk eight hours a day, five days a week. Now, productivity is measured more often by output, and an ever-increasing number of professionals are working from home. “You can work from home. You can work from anywhere! Everything’s in the cloud,” says Lisa Pool, executive director at TAG. That’s right: as long as you’ve got your smartphone or laptop handy, and an internet connection, you can get to work from just about anywhere.
There are still many foundations and nonprofits that have not yet adopted this new mode of working, or are in the process of doing so. Lynch believes that managers should keep up with their employees’ demands: “There is a demand from employees to work in a 21st-century way,” he says. “Managers should take cues from their employees who want to work remotely.”
This shift in work culture promotes productivity. As the GMN/TAG survey found, “The ability for staff to have access to software anywhere at any time is appealing and cost-effective.” The more the cloud becomes the norm, the more we can work, period. (Almost) gone are the days of the 9 to 5 grind. Simultaneously, gone are the days of missed deadlines or missed emails because employees are away on business or vacation, and can’t access the in-house server.
- KEEP UP, STAY AGILE, AND DON’T GET LEFT BEHIND
If you’ve learned anything so far, it should be that cloud-computing is inevitable. It will become the norm for grants management solutions. If you think about it, not adopting cloud computing is actually much scarier than joining the pack. Without cloud-based systems, you can’t offer employees incentives, like flexible work schedules; you run the risk of losing your data far more often by using an in-house server; and, you lose pace with the sector.
Imagine: a cloud-based grants management system like Fluxx allows visibility into your grant pipeline from just about anywhere, in a matter of minutes. Lynch of TechSoup explains, “IT systems are shifting towards having a master data repository. This lets us be agile. We can organize, and make data presentable very quickly now with these systems.” Simply put, if you’re unable to keep pace, you’ll fall behind. The cloud keeps you agile, and relevant.
- AFFORDABILITY: WITH THE CLOUD, YOU DON’T NEED IT STAFF, PERIOD.
How much do you spend on IT staff and assistance with your in-house server? It adds up, right? When you move over to the cloud, you don’t need an IT staff at all. Lynch writes, “You may find that a cloud computing infrastructure requires a smaller IT staff than a traditional IT setup does because your organization won't be managing the software anymore.” What’s more, a relatively cheap tablet can access your cloud solution accounts just as quickly as a $2,000 premium laptop can. Cloud computing is not just cost effective: Implementing this technology is a genius financial solution.
So, yes, cloud computing is inevitable. It’s where we’re headed, and fast. But adopting this technology needn’t be scary – the upside is way too high! Not only will you make your team happy, you’ll also safely secure your data, and keep pace with the future of the sector. There’s no reason to wait.
Eliza Smith is frequent contributor to Fluxx and the special projects associate at Glasspockets, a project of the Foundation Center, San Francisco.