Cloud Computing and benefits for charities

Written by Gaurav DharHui E! Pou Āwhina and IT specialist 

Recently, I attended seminars in Berlin and Wellington on cloud computing for Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. Both technologies are on par with each other and come with a market place to choose different products that suit customer’s need (kind of like the Apple App Store and Google Play Store). It makes it hard to decide which one to use, but regardless it is time for the businesses in New Zealand to switch from hosting their own servers to cloud-based servers due to our geographical location. 

Figure1. Cloud Computing  

When I talk about the cloud, I’m not talking about the weather in Wellington, but basically wrap around services for information technology – including your servers and the software you use. In the past, groups had servers based out of a physical location that you’ll hire, now they pay for this from one location. 

The more you use the cloud, the less you have to worry about things like upgrades, security, and planning for emergencies, because the cloud provider does all of this for you. In an increasingly complex technological world, it is the future. 

Here is a little report I created to provide an overview of Cloud Technology – and why I think it’s a great idea to think about for your group. I discuss businesses a lot here, but for larger charities, many of the same principles apply: 

CLOUD COMPUTING BENEFITS AN ORGANIZATION MORE THAN IS EXPECTED 

Information communications and technology has significantly impacted the way modern businesses and organisations undertake their activities. As you’ll all be aware, business complexity has continuously increased. Although it is relatively easy to start a business or a charity in New Zealand than other parts of the world, managing and growing the business or charity may be harder than it appears in the modern environment. A solution to this issue is incorporating cloud computing technology in all services that require information technology.  

What is particularly important for organisations is that cloud computing has proven to be beneficial to businesses and organisations that don’t have a vast amount of resources at their disposal. Such organisations need information technology services such as hosting, infrastructure and platforms to ensure that they deliver whatever product or service to their customers with efficiency. Start-ups offering information technology related services like application or web development have benefited more from the cloud technology platform. It makes it easy for them to manage the infrastructure or service thus giving them more time to concentrate on their customers and understand their needs. 

Most companies aim at minimising costs as much as they can without affecting the quality of output. Companies especially start-ups incurring expenses related to information technology may significantly benefit from outsourcing such services to the cloud as they don’t need to purchase the actual infrastructure and software required to run the services. 

Security is a significant issue for companies offering IT related services. In New Zealand, all organisations have obligations to keep customer’s information safe when they provide it to the company. Keeping such information secure may be expensive to some businesses; thus it increases the need to use cloud computing technology which provides security components at an affordable price. 

Any business embracing this technology can position itself to the market since it can concentrate more on understanding the needs of the customer and less on running the IT processes. 

Cloud technology is not only relevant for small businesses; it is quite beneficial for charities or not for profit organisations. To work effectively and efficiently charities make use of cloud-based technology to get more out of their IT. Microsoft, for example, provided sponsorships for non-profit organisations. One such example is Office 365 which is free for charities and Hui E! sets a standard as an umbrella group to make use of it.  

Here are a few reasons why cloud computing is suitable for charities and not for profit groups: 

1. Data integrity and security – Data is the most critical part of any business, and the same is valid for charities. Most charities to reduce cost encourage their employees or volunteers to use their own devices. The risks associated with it are often overlooked. If not protected adequately by anti-virus or firewalls there is a higher chance of data to be compromised. The benefit of going into the cloud is that your data is stored in a secure environment of data centres which are ISO-27001 certified (ISO-27001 is an information security standard). The servers are configured with most up to date firewalls and anti-virus software.  

2. Mobility – With the cloud, you can take your charity beyond the bounds of ceilings and walls. Often it is required by volunteers of the charity to travel places, so there is no need for your charity to pay an extra cost for office space as you can make your office go with you wherever you go. In fact, with desktop computers in the cloud, you can access the applications installed on them from any device such as smartphones, tablets or laptops. 

3. Leverage resources – Public money shouldn’t be wasted on acquiring expensive hardware devices that include servers for data storage. With cloud technology, not for profits can leverage the tools and services offered by the cloud to store data in one centralised place that also maintains the integrity of the data.  

5. Manage changing requirements – In today’s environment requirements often change. With these changes, the requirements for IT infrastructure will vary. For example, you might have time in a year where the traffic to your website increases and you need more computing power or data storage to handle queries. Unlike traditional IT, the requirements of the cloud can be adjusted when needed to aid your group’s requirements. 

6. Data control – Consider a scenario where you lose your data due to a natural disaster or human error.  With the cloud, it is easier to recover your lost data and keep your business running as compared to data stored on your on-premise computers or servers. 

7. Affordability – This is a principal advantage for charities to go into the cloud. Usually, charities either don’t have to pay for services provided by the cloud, or they pay much less than businesses. Rather than investing in infrastructure and hiring staff, charities can leverage cloud resources; they don’t have to spend time and money on upgrading technology and buying new hardware as the cloud service provider manages it – and operates at economies of scale that spreads costs more evenly.  

All in all, for some not for profit groups cloud technology is the future. Cloud based solutions are more flexible and cost-effective without compromising the ability and features required to run a charity’s business. It can increase productivity and provide mobility without spending a significant amount of money on infrastructure.  

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