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Embracing cloud technology in the non-profit sector

Effectively managing your organization’s cloud footprint is something nonprofits can’t ignore. From cybersecurity concerns, vendor lock-in, complex cloud bills, and the lack of transparency on costs, cloud management can be challenging for small mission-focused teams.

The nonprofit sector needs cloud solutions to collaborate with remote or hybrid teams, keep pace with digital transformation, and fulfill its missions and mandates. Yet, nonprofits often have more challenges than other sectors because of limited technology staffing; most of their focus is on program work, impact, and the community needs it serves. On top of this, nonprofits must overcome technical staff churn and technology funding decisions that have traditionally been seen as overhead and a cost center instead of innovation and scaling mission and impact.

To overcome and manage all these obstacles, nonprofits partner with consultants and managed service providers. These partnerships help to secure the expertise and resources required for efficient operations and to enable innovation. But, those partners also bring their prescribed preferences of the hosting providers, SaaS platforms, and cloud infrastructure they are comfortable with. Over time, this leads to nonprofits that are stretched thin on technology staffing, reliant on partners and their cloud platform decisions, creating complex cloud infrastructure that is ad-hoc and disparate. That is not the strategic multi-vendor strategy you want.

We’d like to share some guidelines, data, and resources we think nonprofit IT leaders would find helpful when looking at their cloud solution strategy.

How to find the right cloud for your needs

Today, there are a myriad of cloud options available and it can be overwhelming. Making an informed decision is important to picking the right cloud to support your compute, reliability, and scalability needs.

💡Brand new to cloud computing? DigitalOcean has a range of resources to help you understand the basics and make the best choice for your organization:

1. Understand the value the cloud brings to your organization

As everything shifts to digital, understanding and articulating why the cloud is important to your organization’s mission and executive leadership team/board priorities will be crucial to getting the appropriate level of support, budget, and headcount for your technical needs.

Five major value drivers of the cloud include cost saving and predictable billing, community support and robust technical documentation, ease of use aligned to a range of services, scalability and consistent performance, and security. A great place to start is to understand your organization’s values and then prioritize the values cloud brings to your organization and align them to your organization’s overall values.

2. Define your requirements and budget

Prior to trialing or signing up for any product, outline your goals, expectations, and needs. A technology project has three legs to the stool: people, process, and technology, and all are critical to the success. Identify the final product you need, whether that’s a website, web application, or blog, and list the process, people, technology, and tasks you need to get up and running and maintain. Assess the potential compute, storage, services, and people you will need for what you are building.

Also, start to think about your budget for technology and people. Loop in the value this project brings to the organization so you can start to quantify the outcomes of the investment you need for technology and people.

3. Choose the right server environment

If you know cloud infrastructure is right for you, based on your requirements, you will need to decide if you want a shared hosting environment or a Virtual Private Server (VPS). A VPS provides many advantages, including greater control, flexibility, and security compared to shared hosting.

Shared hosting is often cost-effective and will give you more of an out-of-the-box product, but limits your customization options. Evaluate your current and future needs to choose the right balance between cost and capabilities.

4. Understand operating system and network infrastructure

Your server’s functionality is significantly influenced by your operating system (OS) choice. Linux and Windows are the most popular options. Linux is recognized for its stability, security, and open-source characteristics, making it best for developers and individuals adept in command-line interfaces. Windows is known for its user-friendly interface, which proves advantageous for businesses relying on ASP.NET or Windows-specific applications. Select an operating system aligned with your technical proficiency and software requirements.

The network infrastructure is what will make or break an online experience. You need to ensure two things: one, the VPS provider offers high-speed internet connectivity with low latency. Two, the data center location is close to your users. Proximity affects loading speed and user experience.

5. Hosting and IaaS provider

Selecting the right hosting provider for your requirements and budget is a very important decision. Research, talk with your peers, and read customer reviews to get insight into the quality of service, uptime, and customer experience.

Compare services and plans offered by different providers. Cloudways, a managed cloud hosting provider, has a helpful overview of different plans between DigitalOcean, AWS, and GCP. G2 is a great resource for IaaS provider comparison. Important factors to keep in mind are uptime guarantees, customer support availability, scalability options, and security.

6. Budget and support

Cloud costs can get out of control quickly, so it’s important to align your choice with your budget. However, ensure you are not compromising quality for affordability. The consequences can be severe if constituents cannot access your website or application.

Equally important is the level of customer support and technical assistance. Ensure the cloud provider you chose offers 24/7 support through various channels. Timely and reliable support can make a big difference in resolving issues.

Benefits for nonprofits using DigitalOcean

DigitalOcean has a comprehensive product portfolio offering a one-stop shop with everything you need for secure and scalable applications and virtual hosting: compute, storage, networking, managed databases, and more. We also have a robust community and documentation and provide 24/7 support through both free and paid plans.

The cherry on top is that DigitalOcean has a Nonprofit & Social Impact program, giving eligible organizations access to $2,500 in infrastructure credits and discounted Cloudways managed hosting services.

Developer-friendly environment

DigitalOcean is a popular, developer-friendly cloud platform known for its intuitive products, including user-friendly interfaces, command-line tools, and APIs. Although developers you collaborate with might initially be unfamiliar with DigitalOcean, the platform’s ease of use facilitates quick onboarding and reduces training expenses.

Educational resources and community

DigitalOcean is also known for its great documentation and tutorials to help ease the learning curve so you can get the most out of your platform sooner; especially for organizations managing technology environments with limited resources.

DigitalOcean fosters an active community of developers, customers, and technologists. You can participate in discussions, ask questions, or share expertise about cloud infrastructure, development, system administration, and more.

Cost-predictability

DigitalOcean stands out with a predictable pricing model, ensuring that organizations can anticipate their monthly expenses without the complex and often opaque billing structures seen with hyperscaler clouds like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. By offering a straightforward pricing calculator, DigitalOcean allows you to estimate costs transparently, so you can be confident in the value you’re receiving without the fear of hidden fees or cost overruns.

Scale and security

DigitalOcean makes it easy for organizations to scale their infrastructure up or down as needed. You can spin up a new cloud server within seconds to accommodate any spikes in traffic.

DigitalOcean has robust security practices and features to safeguard your data and applications. DigitalOcean’s commitment to security is underscored by compliance with certifications such as ISO/IEC 27001 and SOC 2 Type II, ensuring robust protection for data and applications. Plus, Servers come with built-in firewalls to control network traffic and data at rest is encrypted by default for added protection. Regular automated backups ensure disaster recovery capabilities. DDoS protection and two-factor authentication provide additional layers of security.

Join the nonprofits advancing their missions with DigitalOcean

Nonprofit and social enterprise organizations trust DigitalOcean to help them scale and fulfill their core missions:

  • HEDERA uses DigitalOcean Droplets to host their open-source data collection and visualization web-based application. Droplets can be optimized for memory, CPU, and storage.

  • Nonprofit Exchange uses DigitalOcean to host their fundraising and disaster-relief applications.

  • Ersilia is using App Platform to make its AI/ML models accessible to scientists and researchers in Africa.

Many nonprofits also use DigitalOcean to manage databases and help with data/object storage. DigitalOcean is the cloud partner you need for the long haul to help get to cloud management sanity and stability incrementally. The Nonprofit & Social Impact program is a great way to get started on that path.

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