What is Cloud Computing
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, it’s hosted by someone else online or “in the cloud” and can be accessed 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 reason:
- Convenience – With SaaS you can access your database anywhere there is an Internet connection. Since non-profits’ 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, so it’s less headache for you. It’s also 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 Required – With SaaS there is less need for in-house IT staff. Think about it: There is no server and installs, 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.”
Of course, cloud computing comes with its concerns. With cloud computing, if the Internet is down, you won’t be able to access you data. So make sure you’ve got a reliable connection. And believe it or not, some SaaS providers claim that they own your data once it’s on their servers, so 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.