The True Cloud: What A Nonprofit Needs to Know

Cloud Software For Nonprofits

With so many purported cloud-based services, it can be difficult to understand the similarities and differences between different software deployment models available to a nonprofit today. There is a difference in cloud technology for Nonprofits. In this article, we’d like to clear up some of this information so you’re better prepared to make the right choice!

The True Cloud: Defined

The basic idea of a cloud service is deploying your association’s software remotely. That is, running software and storing data on a computer that is not on your premises. Instead, the cloud allows users to deploy their applications from a computer that belongs to the cloud service provider.

An astute reader may ask, “isn’t that just a server running applications from a data center?” The answer is “yes, and no.” Servers represent the oldest, most basic and cryptic form of a cloud service.

Modern cloud platforms take the server model. In other words, running applications on a server and interacting them via query-response patterns. And, then expand them to improve functionality and user interface (UI) features. Beyond this distinction, a cloud service can be anything from a bare-bones remote computing platform to a full-service, managed software solution.

The Fake Cloud

What we and many others like to call the “fake cloud” is essentially a remote computer-for-rent. It fits the technical definition of a cloud service – in that it’s a way to deploy an application off-premises – but it does little more than what a server does.

Using the fake cloud technology means that an organization is responsible for installing, updating, and maintaining their remotely-deployed software and applications. This requires a considerable amount of ongoing technical support, not to mention other complications such as hard-to-see security vulnerabilities and system outages due to updates or problems that can’t be resolved immediately.

In this way, the fake cloud is really no different from on-premise software. Migrating an on-premise software instance to this type of cloud service is just an additional headache that offers no major benefits.

Cloud Application Platforms

For organizations that are interested in developing their own custom cloud-based software solution, there are a number of cloud platform services that allow developers to build applications on a remote, cloud-based environment.

Some popular examples of these services include Microsoft Azure, Apache Stratos, and Google App Engine. They offer flexibility and full access to the benefits of cloud deployment. But, in large percentage of cases this is best suited for organizations that are interested in developing and deploying cloud-based applications themselves.

A True Cloud Offering

The true cloud is the very best of what cloud software technology has to offer including Multitenancy.

Often referred to as “Software as a Service” (SaaS), this type of service includes continuous cloud-deployment, software and security updates without interruption of service, and continuous technical support.

It’s a business model. A business model that combines software development, cloud platforms, IT support and customer support into one subscription-based model.

This model provides benefits to both the software vendor and the client association, given that the suite of services are within the client’s needs. It simplifies software logistics, reduces the up-front cost of software, and entices the vendor to continuously “earn” the sustained business of their clients. For the vendor, it makes deploying updates, patching security vulnerabilities, and providing technical support much simpler by enabling full control over these factors.

What’s the right type of cloud solution for my nonprofit association?

Finding the right solution starts with identifying the needs of your nonprofit organization. From there, you can begin comparing services apples-to-apples within the type of cloud service that best suites those needs.

For additional information and guidance on choosing the right cloud software for your organization, contact us! We here at SmartThoughts are specialists in software assessment and selection assistance services and would be happy to help you make a well-informed decision.

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