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The Cloud

Posted by Martin Campbell at Apr 05, 2012 10:49 AM CDT
Categories: Nonprofit Trends, Technology, Usability

If you're too young to remember where you were when JFK was shot, you might well remember where you were on December 26, 2004 when a massive tsunami caused a deadly natural disaster around the Indian Ocean.   I'll remember that day well because I was on call as the manager of the British Red Cross' online donations and messaging platform.  Of course the disaster prompted a flurry of activity at the Red Cross which sent aid to the region both directly and through local partners, and mobilised thousands of supporters to donate goods and cash in support of the effort.  

One of the reasons that the date is so firmly etched in my memory is that the Red Cross did not use a cloud hosted solution.  That meant that physical computers had to be racked and configured in pretty short order just to cope with the surge in demand caused by this significant event. 

When looking at their future online platform requirements, I'm finding that the charities we work with are all very interested in what the cloud can offer.  This is where the charity sector's specific needs really need to be addressed.  There are some general reasons why cloud computing is gaining adoption and is seen by many as "a very good thing", but what I have found is that those charities choosing it aren't always doing so for the reasons that commercial organisations adopt the cloud.  In our world, there seem to be three key strengths of the cloud which just can't be matched any other way:

  • Scalability:  The massive scalability that cloud can offer is something that charities often rely on (even when this isn't part of the plan).  You don't know when your charity will hit the news or when a key celebrity will tweet about your campaign, but you'd better be ready!
  • Flexible cost:  The "pay as you go" aspect of cloud means that if you're an organisation which knows you'll get peaks and troughs in demand, you don't need to plan for - and pay for - keeping the maximum capacity online the whole time.  And that can save a lot of money.
  • Payment options:  When you're using software as a service, you don't have to pay for it all up front - prior to taking delivery, you pay for it over the period you use it over.  Whilst commercial organisations can "capitalise" the cost of software - and use various financing mechanisms to cover it - charities don't always have that option, and the ability to spread payments throughout the life of a platform means that you don't have to make a big financial commitment up front.

So whatever systems you're considering for online - don't just read the standard stuff which applies to commercial organisations - cloud applications are super-charity-friendly in special ways!

If you're interested - you can read more about my boxing day antics at http://newsroom.cisco.com/feature-content?type=webcontent&articleId=776182

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