Back in 2012, a survey showed that upwards of 90% of nonprofits were using the cloud in some capacity. The vast majority of those were using hosted SaaS applications and many had only the vaguest conception of what the cloud was.
Since 2012, nonprofit organizations have been influenced by startup culture, which inaugurated a shift in technology philosophy — nonprofit IT leaders realized the full benefits of deploying on flexible, scalable cloud architecture.
But the nonprofit space is conservative, particularly established organizations. They need to make the most of limited resources and are hesitant to invest in unproven technologies. So, what can the cloud do for nonprofits that traditional infrastructure deployments cannot?
Simplified IT Deployment and Management
Nonprofits are created with a mission in mind, and that mission rarely includes creating organizational structures for the management of complex IT systems. From website hosting to mobile app development and big data analytics; to maximize performance, nonprofits need technology. The cloud offers a solution that allows nonprofits to access scalable and highly flexible IT infrastructure without the burden of managing the underlying physical systems. Hosting platforms, compute power, and data storage are all vastly easier to manage when someone else takes care of the details.
If you have a limited pool of resources and need to know where best to deploy them, accurate and insightful data is key. More data is available than ever before: demographics, meteorology, logistics, social networking, sentiment analysis, disease prevalence patterns, and so on. Open datasets abound, and nonprofits generate huge amounts of data in their own right.
Organizations like the Sumall Foundation use big data analytics to tackle real world problems with striking success in areas from human trafficking* to homelessness** via the impact of poetry-writing on literacy outcomes. And, of course, big data insights are a powerful tool for targeting fundraising efforts.
The difficulty is not a lack of available data, but resources to properly exploit it.
Most nonprofits are not in a position to buy and manage hardware on the scale required to make the most of the data available to them. The cloud means they don’t have to. Cloud infrastructure can be deployed as needed, for as long (or as short) as needed.
Access Data Anywhere
Most of the work of nonprofits and charities is not carried out in an office in front of a computer; the majority is done in the field and that’s where the data needs to be accessible, whether it’s insights from the big data we’ve discussed, or simple treatment records or phone numbers.
Cloud data storage allows for data to be accessed from anywhere over secure connections. Infrastructure as a service platforms are perfect for hosting applications that can deliver data to workers in the field on their mobile devices.
Nonprofits that aren’t already using the cloud should take a long hard look at their legacy systems and realize that the cloud offers opportunities that they should seriously consider.