Joseph Blass, CEO, WorkPlaceLive, www.workplacelive.com
Almost all charities use the Cloud in one way or another. Many will have a gmail account or use dropbox to store and share information or use some cloud based backup system.
However, being in the Cloud is as meaningless as saying that the organisation uses cars – what is really important is the type of cars they use. Are they running 2001 Ford Fiestas or a fleet of new Rolls Royces? Whilst there are both cars, they are fundamentally different products. Similarly, not all Cloud services are the same.
While organisations usually invest time in analysing their many options for mobile phones or computer hardware, when it comes to IT services, sometimes not enough comparison is done. Organisations will often settle with being in the cloud without investigating exactly what these services really offer them and how they compare to others on the market.
The Cloud services market is large and varied, involving a wide array of products with different prices, service levels and security standards.
Like any other sector, customers should do their research and seek out the services that best meet their budget and business objectives. The Cloud must be also fine-tuned to meet their individual needs. One of the big risks is that a growing charity spends too money much on Cloud services that it doesn’t need – or alternatively, that it is let down by an unsuitable service that is not robust enough.
Getting it right can give a small or medium-sized charity the edge in a competitive market, as well as reducing their IT costs and giving it access to secure, hassle-free services.
What should charities be looking for when they try to differentiate between the many Cloud computing providers?
WHAT SERVICE IS ON OFFER
Today everyone is accustomed to Cloud-based email which can be accessed from tablets and mobiles. Most people enjoy uploading videos, photos and files to Cloud-based storage services such as icloud, skydrive, dropbox and others.
Some organisations are also adopting Cloud-based accounting packages or CRM solutions.
That is all progress, but many organisations still rely on local servers either in the office or in a data centre. So whilst they are using a range of different Cloud-based services, their overall IT infrastructure is still server based and computing is still being done on local devices.
How does this impact the business or its employees? The answer is simple.
When organisations use disparate patches of Cloud services – with email delivered by one provider, a CRM system by another and then still have accounts and databases housed on the local server, remote access working is truly limited.
An employee won’t be able to work effectively from home. Yes, they will be able to access email, but they will be unable to access their entire suite of business applications and work seamlessly.
Another challenge for charities with multiple IT providers is the complexity of the IT management and the need for resources to manage the systems not to mention the cost of investing in the equipment.
Opting for a Cloud-based hosted desktop service addresses these challenges. This luxury service hosts all the systems, data, software packages and computing power in one place, giving everyone access to their entire suite of business applications from any location.
The organisation continues to operate normally except everything is hosted securely in the Cloud – accessible to all and reducing the need for resources spent bogged down in IT administration and management.
Security is a consideration for anyone evaluating different Cloud options and using a ‘big name’ provider doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the provider meets all the specific laws and regulations for the business.
An organisation must also ask where is their data being held and is their Cloud data centre based in Britain or overseas? If it’s located in a different country, is it a secure location or is the data subject to scrutiny by foreign government agencies?
It’s also important to check whether the Cloud provider is certified under the ISO 27001, the international standard for information security.
Some charities are too big for off the shelf products that aren’t tailored to their needs, yet they’re too small to attract the interest of multinational services.
Some of the largest and best known Cloud companies offer a more commoditised approach to remote storage. It’s often the smaller ones that can be more flexible and nimble and focused on their customers’ needs.
A tailored, quality Cloud service allows growing charities to concentrate on building their organisation, rather than worrying about IT issues.
The stakes are high. The fastest growing new organisations use the Cloud extensively and are 21% more profitable than organisations that don’t use the Cloud, according to research published in September 2014 by Deloitte and Google (1).
That can only be achieved if organisations learn how to harness the power of the Cloud effectively.
Saying that they need cloud isn’t enough. Charities need a clear idea of what Cloud service they require and they must be confident their provider offers a quality service that is stable, resilient and secure.