This blog post was originally posted to Intacct's View from the Cloud Blog...
Like all nonprofit organizations, faith-based ministries are experiencing increased pressure, oversight, and demand for transparency from all sides. Whether the focus is reporting, funding, or accountability for outcomes, it is critical that ministry organizations have the edge in technology tools that improve their efficiency, reduce costs, and increase their visibility.
Significant enhancements and adoption of cloud computing has opened the door for faith-based organizations to greatly benefit from the latest innovations in technology.
I thought it would be useful to look at the key benefits and concerns around the cloud, examine the current state of cloud computing, and try to help faith-based organizations understand why cloud computing offers tremendous opportunity with limited risk.
The Promise of Cloud Computing
According to the most recent Nonprofit Technology Network survey, over 90% of respondents are using some kind of cloud-based software solution. The vast majority (80%) were using more than one cloud solution for non-critical applications like email, project management, and video conferencing. When asked why they were using cloud solutions, the nonprofits surveyed listed primary drivers as mobility and cost.
Mobility and remote access are especially important for ministries. Sharing data and 24/7 Internet access greatly improve an organization’s efficiency and provide real-time management insight and action. With the mobility capabilities of cloud computing, internal and external stakeholders gain full access to metrics, approvals, and financial reports – regardless of location.
From a cost savings perspective, cloud solutions can dramatically reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) by eliminating hardware costs and reducing software and IT costs. The cloud eliminates the burden of installing, maintaining, and upgrading software solutions, as well as reducing dependence on scarce IT resources and freeing time to focus on the organization’s mission. With cloud computing, faith-based organizations also get the benefit of reducing their technology risk with enterprise-class security, backups, and disaster recovery – at a much lower cost than doing it themselves.
Eliminating Concerns around Cloud Computing
It’s easy to see why these key features are the motivators for moving to the cloud, but what about the questions and concerns surrounding the other critical aspects of cloud computing? Let’s look at these key issues and examine how the latest advances in cloud computing technology have addressed those concerns for faith-based organizations and ministries.
Many nonprofits and faith-based organizations believe that on-premises systems offer more privacy and security because the hardware is physically located within the organization. Howver, by utilizing the investment of major cloud providers in accumulating the greatest collection of computer science and data security expertise in the world, organizations can benefit from levels of privacy and security that far exceed what their on-premises solutions can offer.
Cloud providers can scale for millions of users via a few major providers to create more secure environments by incorporating the latest standards and controls. This capability results in a level of security that individual organizations cannot match.
The specific concerns of nonprofit and faith-based organizations around data control and access include the fear of outages, ensuring they maintain ownership of their data, and guaranteeing that no data is lost in disasters or emergencies.
These can be addressed in the cloud with a little advanced preparation and validation regarding the vendor you are choosing. This includes:
- Verifying the historical performance level of the prospective provider.
- Making sure that they offer 24/7/365 real-time information on performance levels.
- Requiring guaranteed performance at 99.8% or better.
When evaluating cloud providers, faith-based organizations and ministries should review a service’s audit or certification of security, backups, and maintenance practices, and then keep reviewing these things regularly while utilizing that service. The organization should make sure they still own their information and can take it from the cloud when they want it. Typically, many organizations find when they compare their internal on-premise processes against cloud offerings, cloud offerings offer more benefits.
Best-in-class cloud providers will guarantee these minimum service levels:
- In case of major disasters, applications are backed up and running within an agreed upon time frame.
- Continuous local backups plus streaming backups go to a remote disaster recovery center.
- SSAE 16 SOC1 Type II audited processes and controls plus PCI DSS certification.
- Constant monitoring of application performance and responsiveness from locations around the world
With increased accountability, focus on outcomes, and donor transparency, it’s more important than ever for faith-based and ministry organizations to take advantage of the right technologies that can support their missions. It’s also imperative that faith-based organizations increase efficiency, transparency, and stewardship – while maintaining successful missions. Cloud computing is a great way to get there quickly. The cloud just makes sense for faith-based organizations – don’t get left behind.
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