In this guest post, Richard Cooper, Director of Programmes at Charity Digital, puts an end to the myths surrounding the use of cloud technology in the third sector. The growth of the use of cloud technology in business is nothing short of phenomenal. The reason for this is that it saves on time, cost and enables flexible working. Despite these benefits, I find that many charities are still resisting its adoption. At Charity Digital, we recently undertook a survey of 426 respondents and found that 58% of charities still don’t use the cloud – 65% of which are small charities. With the array of articles written about the benefits of the cloud, including this recent article from our own IT expert Andy Man, I wanted to know why, and discovered that:
These statistics confirm that charities are still having issues in seeing the value of the cloud. So, it’s time to put an end to these myths and share the truth about cloud costs and security.
Money, money, money – it’s a word that charities love and hate in equal measure. When it comes to updating technology for their employees, I often see charities looking at the situation in the same way they would a broken boiler. Something goes wrong with it, you call the engineer to fix it and they give you two options: 1. Pay £30 for a new part to be fixed in the existing boiler. 2. Pay £200 for a new boiler. Many people take option 1 and it’s obvious why – because it’s cheaper in the short term. Unfortunately, when one part breaks, it’s normally downhill from there; sooner or later other parts will get old and start failing too. You can keep paying for more parts at £30 a pop, but in the end the boiler is out of date and useless, resulting in you needing to buy a new one anyway. If you consider that, which is really the cheaper option? It’s a similar story with hardware. Hardware incurs extra costs over time for updates and repairs. Additionally, these updates and repairs require the knowledge of an IT expert meaning that smaller charities, who more often than not don’t have an IT department, need to hire an external IT expert to update or repair the hardware, adding to the costs. Out-of-date hardware slows down systems, meaning that it can’t keep up with the workloads. When it does finally have to be updated because it can’t cope, you’re faced with a very large bill to pay. The cloud, on the other hand, is consumed on a pay-as-you-go basis. It updates automatically at no extra cost for the user, like a smart phone. It does not therefore require an IT expert to control every update or installation, ultimately saving time and money. On top of this, Microsoft’s cloud solution, Office 365, is free for many UK charities, while Salesforce also offers 10 licences free along with around 80% discount on any others, so cost really isn’t an issue. What’s more, you get all the new features when they’re released, not five years down the line when you do an upgrade.
Charities often tell me that they think the cloud is less secure than having their own hardware because it operates through the web, meaning that it’s more vulnerable to viruses and hackers. It’s important to remember, however, that cloud providers such as Microsoft and Salesforce have put their reputations on the line, investing a lot more time, money and manpower than most charities have in their entire organisations into constantly monitoring and updating the security of their services. What people tend to forget is the physical security risks posed by hardware. Actually having a box sitting in an office can often pose more of a risk. I recently talked to someone who, on their second day in a new job, walked into one of the charity’s buildings and walked out with a server tucked under his arm without being challenged! Compare that to the security implemented by cloud service providers. Even if you could identify the location of their servers, you can’t get into the building without identification checks and invitations. You certainly can’t take anything out. Ultimately, no matter how much you invest in security, the biggest vulnerabilities in any charity or business come down to the employees. If you allow anyone and everyone to access your computer, share your passwords, or do not set secure passwords, it will leave you vulnerable to an attack.
Many charities are adverse to change but it’s time to stop making excuses. The cloud will save you money, it’s more secure and it’s easy to use – what more could you ask for?