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From Servers to SaaS: Your Nonprofit’s Journey to the Cloud

At some point in your technology journey, you’ll have to decide whether to step up your investment in servers and other infrastructure upgrades—or seek a more cost-effective option. For many businesses and nonprofits, costs related to IT infrastructure, personnel, outside services, and other expenses necessary to keep your critical applications running can consume up to 20% of the annual operating budget. In addition to this stiff price tag, inevitable spikes in cost outside your operating budget can be financially disruptive.

It’s no wonder, then, that many organizations are migrating to the cloud, a journey that we took a few years ago. It’s not a decision we made lightly. We didn’t want to sacrifice any essential capability that would impact our ability to operate at a high level. This meant carefully vetting applications based on their ability to serve our needs. We also needed to understand the relative total cost of ownership of these systems compared to what we had in place.

4 steps to a successful cloud migration

Like JMT, your nonprofit prioritizes cost savings and functionality in your technology investments—including the cloud. To help you achieve your objectives, Capterra recently published a “Nonprofit Guide to Cloud Data Migration.” It recommends that organizations:

  1. Assess which systems you can move to the cloud. These should include productivity suites, file storage, email, calendar, donor database, and your fund accounting software. At JMT, we started with customer relationship management (CRM) software. We were able to use a cloud-native CRM side-by-side with our on-premises accounting and productivity applications. Later, we moved away from Microsoft Exchange and began using Google Apps for e-mail and collaboration. We then moved to a cloud-native financial management solution that could be fully and seamlessly integrated with our CRM. Finally, we moved all file storage/management offsite, leaving just one box to manage local connectivity and broadband access for the computers in our main office. Everything else is securely managed in the cloud.

 

  1. Assess your current costs and future needs. Capterra recommends that you conduct a cost and needs analysis of all your local systems, to help you determine what you’re willing to pay for each cloud service you’re considering. JMT, like many organizations, had existing infrastructure (mail, database servers, Citrix, etc.), perpetual licenses to the software we used (we paid publisher support and maintenance), dedicated in-house IT staff, and outside IT consulting contracts. To accurately compare the costs, we had to look out over a longer period of time to recognize the licensing differences between SaaS (subscription-based) applications and our existing software. We also had look ahead to a time when we wouldn’t need servers and other infrastructure on which to host these applications.
  1. Select your cloud provider(s). Be sure to consider all aspects of a provider’s services, costs, features, and security. Security should be a top priority, since you’ll be storing sensitive donor and employee information. It is recommended that you carefully review privacy policies and terms of service with legal and technical experts. Your nonprofit should be able to maintain complete ownership and privacy of any data stored in the cloud.

 

  1. Execute your cloud migration. Capterra breaks this into five steps:
    1. Back up your data, either yourself or using a third-party backup service.
    2. Plan the “how” and “when” of your data migration. You’ll want to set deadlines for the migration to finish and select a date that minimizes disruptions (such as an extended holiday).
    3. Test the cloud environment, including connections, features, and integrations.
    4. Begin the migration. This was not an overnight process for us, and you, too, should be prepared for the time it takes.
    5. Work out the kinks. Perform additional testing after the migration to resolve any issues with functionality or identify any data loss.

Finding savings and success in the cloud

Now that we’ve moved to the cloud, our team can work remotely or onsite without additional any enabling technologies. In addition, our company is saving tens of thousands of dollars a year in expenses related to upgrades, hardware, outside services, and other costs.

If you’ve reached a decision point in your technology journey, consider the cloud to significantly reduce costs and improve productivity. It’s a journey you don’t have to take alone. The professionals at JMT can ease your transition to the cloud, help your nonprofit organization run more efficiently, and get the most out of your technology investments. Contact us today to get started.

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