We’re interested in the cloud! Each day last week, we featured a question on Linkedin about how you’re using the cloud. We asked for community input on several key cloud-related questions to get a feeling for some of the key issues and solutions that being used today. Below we share the community answers, including some really enlightening findings!
The series was so popular, we decided to open up the topic to extended replies and contributions for this month's Net2 Think Tank. Do you find the cloud to be a really exciting avenue for nonprofits, libraries, and other digital activists? Or, do you think it's too risky? Share your thoughts with the NetSquared Community as part of this month's Net2 Think Tank. Learn more about this opportunity and contribute!
Q. What is your recommendation for the best way to store or archive software that you’ve downloaded?
Personal Computers: On a Mac, use Time Machine to restore documents and software (Tip from Tobias Eigen)
Individual Documents: Use DropBox or Mozy Pro to back up files to the cloud (Tip from Tobias Eigen)
Mobile Phones: On an Android, use the AppBrain App Market app to maintain a list of apps you have installed on the device. If you lose all your apps (due to a hardware issue for instance), AppBrain will reinstall all the apps, including the paid ones. (Tip from Tobias Eigen)
Google Online Tools: Google Apps, Gmail, Docs, Sites, Checkout, for everything from basic productivity tools, websites, and donation platforms (Tips from David Geilhufe, David Deal, Brandie Kajino, Tal Frankfurt, and Kaleena Menke)
Box.net for file sharing and low cost donation processing (tip from David Geilhufe)
Dropbox might make you want to get rid of your USB! It is the easiest way to store, sync, and, share files online. It makes online storage and sharing of files dead simple — as simple as dragging files into specially market local folders. (tip from David Deal and Tal Frankfurt)
Grasshopper – affordable virtual phone system (tip from David Deal)
Skype – can I count the ways you keep me connected? (tip from David Deal)
Mozy – All the important information in your life/business is now stored on a computer. Whether it is photos and music or business documents and financial records, everything is digital - Mozy offers a great backup to the cloud service that will help you sleep at night knowing that your digital life will always be there when you need it. (tip from David Deal and Tal Frankfurt)
Trend Antivirus – offloads some processing so your antivirus isn’t such a performance hog (tip from David Deal)
Doodle - lets you easily schedule meetings, integrates with google calendar and handheld apps. (tip from Tobias Eigen)
Tungle.me - The hardest part of making meetings happen is knowing when is the best time. Tungle.me makes it simple for everyone to know when is best for you! You control your availability and remove all the guessing games. (tip from Tal Frankfurt)
Rapportive - Rapportive is a little browser plugin that provides you with information about the people you talk to via email. (tip from Tal Frankfurt)
MyStickies - This is simple but brilliant little app that essentially lets you place little stickies all over the web to remind you of stuff when you get back there at a later date. You can write messages for yourself and they’ll appear next time you navigate back to that page. (tip from Tal Frankfurt)
Remember the Milk is a great task manager. It allows you to create “to-do” lists in the easiest manner possible as well as being able to access those lists from pretty much anywhere. (tip from Tal Frankfurt)
Q. Which IT systems would you recommend moving to the cloud?
Advice for everyone: have an external IT manager review your infrastructure, current services, and needs, in order to leave you with a report of best bets on what, where, and when to move to the cloud. (from Michael Marus)
Mail & Collaboration Tools: Moving such services to the cloud is generally well-facilitated by service providers and usually translates into immediate lower-cost/lower-investment/lower-maintenance time for hardware and software. And it is not only Google Apps in this arena. There are solid providers from the big guns (Microsoft) down to the small ones (hosting providers with expanded services well beyond hosting). (from Michael Marus)
Operations: With online tools (such as the ones from Salesforce), you will be able to better serve your community in a more effective way. This includes your database and financial system. (from Tal Frankfurt)
Online Presence: Social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are the cloud! (from Tal Frankfurt)
Q. Can using cloud-based services reduce IT costs?
One of the main advantages of the cloud is reducing the IT costs. By moving your nonprofit to the cloud you can you have no more servers (security, upgrades, maintenance) , software, and update fees. Best of all, you can focus on your mission and become more effective and efficient! (From Tal Frankfurt)
We are a small nonprofit, so of course cost is always a factor. When we examined the cost of locally hosting a new application service, versus starting up in the cloud, the cloud was significantly more appealing to us from a financial and a management perspective. As a result of going through that exercise, we are now examining moving existing services into the cloud... an interesting find, from our perspective, is that while on-going costs (in real and human capital) are reduced, the cost of transitioning existing services might be prohibitive for us. (from Glen Cantrell)
Compared to what? You can be sure that your data in the cloud is much more secure than what lives on a tower under your desk :) The cloud increases your security because your data is protected - even if you lose your computer or a server crashes. I believe that nonprofits should focus on helping their community and not on securing servers (or buying and maintaining servers). (From Tal Frankfurt)
Confidentiality and trust: For people or businesses to feel comfortable with the services there must be assurances that access control, authentication and availability are protected from attacks, corruption, or disclosure. That the data is held confidentially and with integrity so that it is non-repudiated. Also it is important that the everything remain private. These assurances need to be at the application layer (where the data is most used). But also there needs to be the same level of assurance that the transport service and the infrastructure are also secure. If these areas are addressed so that the users are comfortable then cloud services will be successful. (From Tom Goodwin)
Evaluating security: Where are you coming from? If it's a server in a closet maintained by the receptionist, pretty much any cloud provider will provider you with better security whether in terms of availably (is the software working today), intrusion (can a hacker get to my data), unauthorized access (non hacking ways of getting to your data), disaster (California just got swallowed by the sea, does you application still work) or recovery (something bad happened, can we start yesterday over again). (From David Geilhufe)
TechSoup Global’s GreenTech program is a green IT program for small and medium sized offices. It helps nonprofits, NGO’s, and libraries use their IT to reduce their environmental impact and also helps them reduce the environmental impact of technology by using less electricity and paper, and also use cloud services that tend to decrease their reliance on in-house IT infrastructure.