22 Oct Make the Google cloud part of your nonprofit IT strategy
Many nonprofits have an information technology infrastructure that has developed over time. There’s a mail server and a server — maybe more than one — for sharing files. Over time, you’ve updated the software and replaced the hardware, but it’s still basically the same thing it was 10 or more years ago. Meantime, a good deal of your work takes place outside the office. You’re expected to read email 23 hours a day. Many of your staff work from home, either all the time or from time-to-time. You need to answer the phone whether you’re in the office or not. Making that work with your 10+ year old technology architecture is difficult.
How is the cloud the answer to this problem? Let’s step back and do a little definition. “Cloud” is a word to describe things delivered as a service. Email is a service. File storage is a service. File sharing is a service. Collaboration is a service. Telephony is a service. The key word here is “delivered.” The services are delivered to you wherever you are on whatever device you want to use. Service providers don’t care if you’re using a Mac, a PC, an Android phone, an iPhone, or a tablet. Their business is to deliver the service to you, at your convenience.
The Google Cloud is a basket of services. Among the services are mail, file storage, and collaborative or traditional file sharing. Google also has personal and shared calendars, personal and shared contacts, and dozens of other services. Google delivers them to you via your web browser (Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Thunderbird, Safari, etc.) or native apps on your smartphone or tablet. Google mail, contacts and calendars also work with most desktop email programs like Outlook, mail.app, and Thunderbird. Google Voice is Google’s telephony service. You can get a free Google Voice number and have it ring multiple phones. Voice messages are automatically transcribed and emailed to you as text, plus you can download the message as an mp3 file. Google Hangouts, part of Google+, let meet with your remote staff “face to face” via video conferencing.
When you’re “in the cloud,” the applications are delivered to you. The servers are at a Google data center near you. So, right off the bat, you can get rid of those servers in the closet down the hall. You won’t have to pay for the electricity, software licenses, and hardware replacements. You don’t have to worry about keeping your software updated or your data backed-up. Google manages all of that. All you need is a connection to the Internet. The cost to you for Google’s services is exactly $0. That’s zero dollars, also known as free. Google provides 501(c)3 non-profits with up to 3,000 accounts for free.
Does this mean your email address has to change? Nope. If you’re “email@example.com“, you can migrate that name to Google’s cloud infrastructure. Is it hard to migrate your current infrastructure to the Google cloud? Not really. Google provides tools to migrate Exchange mail systems and there are many consultants – such as Lumity – who can manage the entire process for you. And, as you might expect from Google, there’s a lot of video on YouTube that provides training on the features available in the Google cloud.
How do you get started? There’s no need to jump into the deep end. You may already have a Gmail account. Explore its features and benefits. Learn more about Google’s cloud services here:
Feel free to contact Lumity. Lumity can present Google’s cloud solution to your leadership and help you develop an information technology strategy that improves your operations and your bottom line. Unlike Google, Lumity’s services are not free, but because Lumity is also a 501(c)(3), our rates are well below those of our for-profit competitors.
Steve Stern is president of Stern Data Solutions (www.sterndata.com) and a long-time Lumity partner.