The Road to the Cloud

Ok, for all you grammar geeks, I know “cloudify” isn’t a word, but today we’re going to coin a new term. The cloud is, essentially, virtual servers available over the Internet. My hope is that by the end of this blog, you will be ready to “cloudify” your own organization, and start your IT strategy anew.

If I asked any IT expert today how they would set up their entity for maximum effectiveness, do you think any of them would say, “Well, first I’d start with an operating system from 2007 and I'd stay six years behind the development cycle. Then I’d have a diverse file storage strategy with some files stored in email, some on my company server, some on my hard drive (which I know can crash) and some on a stealthy online storage provider. Finally, I would have a few essential programs hosted on a local server making it almost impossible for employees to access information from home or the road."

No, of course they wouldn't say that. What IT experts would say is “the time is now and the technology is here, push everything to the cloud!"

Why should your entity move to the cloud?

Personally, and as CFO of Blue Shield of California Foundation, I believe the primary reasons to go to the cloud are: 1) it is cheaper and requires less hardware; 2) you will always be operating with the latest version of your software; 3) you don’t need an IT expert on your staff (more cost savings); and 4) as long as you have an Internet connection, the cloud allows you to access your data anywhere, at any time, from almost any device.

Arguably the fastest growing entities (Google, Salesforce, Workday, and Box) are all cloud-based systems. Entities like these are the future; not only will they help you increase your efficiency, but they will also help attract new minds and talent to your employee base (remember, Millennials want the same fun tools they use personally in the workplace!). These cloud-based systems also have a stronger security protocol than your local network and are heavily incentivized to back-up your data and protect against security breaches.

What can I move to the cloud?

Everything you’re currently using now is also in the cloud. Here is just a small sampling:

  • Email - Google Enterprise (free or $50 per user)
  • Documents - Google Docs (free)
  • File Storage - Box (free versions available, and my personal favorite)
  • Database - Salesforce (free for nonprofits)
  • Finance - FinancialForce (personal favorite, low per-user monthly cost)
  • Project Management - Basecamp ($20 per user per month)
  • Data Analytics - Birst (low-cost, software-as-a-service subscription)
  • HR - Workday (low-cost, software-as-a-service subscription)
  • Phone - Skype (free)
  • Social Collaboration - Chatter (free with Salesforce))
  • Notes - Evernote (free, or $5 per month for a premium account)

What about implementation strategy?

Most early cloud adopters now have a mish-mash of products, having taken the best-of-class each time they searched for a new cloud solution. However, if you are looking to begin or re-tool today, I would strongly urge you to choose just one platform (e.g. Microsoft, Salesforce, Google) and try to build off of that as much as possible, which will greatly assist your systems integration.

Ok, now what?

The Foundation has already had tremendous success using  cloud-based tools. However, the greatest reason I've found that other organizations hesitate to move to the cloud is because they are comfortable with their current system - not happy, but comfortable. To this, I ask: has resistance to change made you stronger in any other area of your life? Take the challenge and embrace this transformational upgrade to your IT system. Go for it! “Cloudify”!

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