The cloud is harnessed by big businesses and small start-ups alike in order to help them access IT technologies that would otherwise be unavailable in an internal environment. However, it is also possible for charities to benefit from the flexibility and scalability of the cloud, because in this digital world it is necessary for all organisations to adapt to new systems that offer impressive benefits.
Charities are in a particularly good position to reap the rewards of using cloud computing if they are operating large events that run for brief periods and are then interspersed with months or years of far smaller activities in the interim.
It would be impossible for a charity to create and maintain a computer system that is able to handle a sudden influx of usage, with people passing on donations and getting information. This is not only expensive to install, manage and maintain, but it is also unsustainable from an environmental point of view.
On the other hand, the cloud offers charities the opportunity to open up almost unlimited levels of capacity and processing power as and when required. This means that each year when a major fund-raising opportunity arises, the charity is able to open the doors to as many donations as possible. In a world where donating digitally is becoming increasingly popular, this kind of scalability becomes an even bigger boon.
From a financial point of view the availability of cloud computing to charities will put them in a much better position. The cloud can be rented on a pay-as-you-go basis, so that as extra capacity is added you only pay for what you use. Costs, therefore, diminish once the need for computing power is reduced, so a charity can spend less during the months of preparation rather than having to sustain an entire computer system at great expense for years on end, even if it not needed for 90 per cent of the time.
One of the best recent examples of how charities can benefit from the cloud is provided by Sports Relief, which has been in operation since 2002 and has raised more than £175 million for good causes.
In an article for The Guardian, cloud expert Dan Sutherland wrote about the challenges faced by any charity that largely relies on major individual events which only take place over a short period of time. He said that by allowing events like Sports Relief to use a prefabricated, cloud-based donation platform which was available on demand and charged on a rate that scaled to meet the needs of charities, such organisations could save money and raise money at the same time.
Mr Sutherland admitted that the arrival of the cloud in a charitable context was still a relatively recent phenomenon, which means that organisations are still trying to get their heads around the benefits which it offers.
However, he is one of the many cloud advocates who believes that access to this kind of computing technology will allow for secure, safe and cost-effective fund-raising to be implemented at charities of all sizes.
It is this final point that is perhaps the most important, because when it comes to the cloud no charity or fund-raising event is too small or too large. The flexibility afforded by the cloud means that small initiatives and international events can gain the same features and capabilities, even if they have vastly different budgets and goals.
JustGiving and other online fund-raising services are helping to educate the public about the availability of digital donations. It is simply up to the charities to take advantage of this fact.