Cloud computing has fundamentally transformed the technology landscape, enabling nonprofits to gain access to powerful and robust systems that were previously out of reach. Although this topic can seem daunting, it’s worth the investment time and attention for anyone looking to advance the technical scope of their organization through improved IT systems and the best tools available in the market today. This guide will review cloud options, migration steps, and requirements for moving to the cloud.

Cloud Options

Google and Microsoft lead the field with the most popular cloud platforms: Google Apps and Office 365 respectively. Many users adopted Google apps like Drive when they first became available, and Google built a great package for nonprofits as well. But now Microsoft’s Office 365 is a mature product, making the competition between the two more fierce.
This competition led to rapid enhancements of both products, and along with a commitment to innovation felt throughout both companies, a desire to serve has led to great investments within the nonprofit community. While Google offered its Apps to nonprofits for free from the beginning, Microsoft recently provided the E1 (entry level) Office 365 program to nonprofits for free. The more comprehensive E3 subscription includes 5 licenses of Office Pro Plus per account plus some additional email archiving and eDiscovery tools, for a fee of $4.50 a month.  (You can read more about Office 365 in our series beginning here) The competition between these two companies means that nonprofits have a great tool regardless of the option they choose. Once a decision has been made, it’s time to migrate to the new platform.


Making an IT migration is never as simple as it sounds. That said, planning and coordinating the process in advance helps to ensure the success of this project. The first step is to understand your organization’s requirements around its IT systems. Ask many questions, including:

Make sure that these are answered sincerely and not with hopeful thinking. Along with the high level questions, you should also look at your organization’s IT assets:


The cloud offers a large amount of “shared” resources, which are different than utilizing the service of customized hardware and software that could be tweaked to match your organization’s exact requirements. A major benefit to cloud based services is the automatic access your organization has to the technology component of a business continuity plan. The Cloud offers 99.9% uptime, meaning that even if the power is out in your office building, staff can continue to work remotely. The biggest downside to cloud migrations is often seen with backups or data retention. Both Microsoft and Google offer a 30 day deleted item retention period. Thus, if you delete something less than 30 days ago, it can be recovered. But if a document or email is deleted more than 30 days ago 30, it’s gone. This backup plan may not meet your organization’s requirements. Fortunately there are a number of 3rd party solutions that can be added to provide various backup and data retention services to meet your requirements. In my next post I address additional aspects of moving to the cloud.
More questions about the cloud?
Community IT has explored both SharePoint and OneDrive on our blog in the posts on OneDrive vs SharePoint , SharePoint as File Server, and OneDrive vs Dropbox.
You may also be interested in free Webinar resources we have presented on Office365, Sharepoint, OneDrive, and Dropbox.  See our catalog of past webinars here