Charities benefit from cloud usage

April 11, 2012

There is little doubt that the private sector has embraced cloud computing as a major new component of business operations. Everyday, news sites abound with stories of small, medium and large enterprises shifting a portion of their infrastructure to the cloud, and there is no sign of this trend abating. Additionally, it is widely reported that governments from around the world are beginning to follow in these companies' footsteps, instituting major changes to their IT structures as they implement cloud-based services.

Despite the attention that these developments receive, there is another sector which is also moving to take advantage of cloud-based services, yet which receives far less attention: charities. For years now, charities have taken advantage of cloud services. Speaking to The Network, Martin Campbell, who was formerly responsible for the hosted website platform for the British Red Cross, indicated that American charities have been using application service provider models for nearly 15 years - around the time that the term "cloud computing" first began to gain traction within industry circles.

The advantages of cloud computing for charities can be significant. As a means of highlighting this fact, Campbell spoke of his experience in Southeast Asia during the 2004 tsunami. Then, he struggled for 48 hours to set up and run new servers that could receive a surge of donations. If cloud services had been available, he said, the British Red Cross could have simply used off-site servers when its local ones were destroyed, thereby ensuring that donations could be accepted at all times.

Beyond continuity, the cloud can also benefit charities by saving them money. As The Guardian recently highlighted, charities have been hard hit by the economic recession. By using cloud services, however, they can maintain or even improve their range of services without spending more money. Using the cloud allows charities to abandon the administrative burden of powering energy-draining servers and costly IT support, allowing them to focus predominantly on their primary services.

However, as charities increasingly utilize cloud services in their mission to provide help to others, they must also take steps to protect the information they gather. In recent years, several charities have drawn negative attention by inadvertently releasing sensitive information about their donors. Only by taking preventative steps to modernize their cybersecurity can charities protect the data of those who wish to help them in their missions.

-McAfee Cloud Security