December 4, 2013

3 Ways Associations Are Benefitting From the Cloud Today

While Cetrom exhibited this week at the annual ASAE Technology Conference and Exposition in Washington, D.C., attendees frequently asked this seemingly loaded question: Why should associations use cloud computing solutions? Our response: there are many reasons why migrating to a cloud solution is a smart business move. In fact, most organizations are already benefitting from the cloud and they don’t even know it. According to Citrix, most Americans are confused by the concept of cloud computing. This is likely due to the fact that many people have been grossly misinformed about the technology altogether. For example, a popular misconception in the nonprofit and association community is that the cloud comes with a steep price tag. The reality is that that cloud computing solutions are often more cost efficient and, in some cases, free.  These solutions have been helping associations grow their businesses and operate efficiently for years. The following real world examples will demonstrate how associations everywhere are already benefitting from the cloud.

Social Media

Some organizations rely heavily on the cloud to support their overall marketing efforts, and do not even realize. Does your organization have a Facebook Page? How about a Twitter handle, blog, YouTube channel, or a Google+ account? Perhaps your employees have active LinkedIn pages? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then you are familiar with cloud computing. Social Media falls within cloud computing, because the cloud is generally defined as any practice of using remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, or process data, instead of on a local device. For example, when you take a picture at a tradeshow and post it on your organization’s Facebook Page, you can delete the photo from your phone, right? Yes. This is because the photo is being stored remotely and is no longer taking up space on your phone, a simple example of cloud computing. Social media products may also contribute to an increase in website traffic. When people click on, like, share, re-post, follow, link, or comment on your company’s social content, search engines like Google typically rank that content higher which helps with your search result. Understanding that you as an association can reap the benefits of free services such as social media is critical. There are, however, thousands of associations using the same products. What else can you do to get an edge?

Email

Email solutions is perhaps the most ubiquitous tool for workplace communication. What do products such as Gmail, Hotmail, and hosted Microsoft Exchange have in common? The cloud. These email solutions are all cloud computing services. Gmail and Outlook accounts operate exclusively in the cloud, while offering their own email archiving services. While online email is not the only way associations use the cloud, most use Microsoft Exchange to host their own email. Did you know this is one of the single most common tools used by cloud computing providers? There are many intrinsic benefits to cloud-based email. For one, it helps to keep you organized. Within the cloud, you can save contacts, signatures, templates, and appointments publicly or segment by secured account. These email solutions allow you to stay safe with redundancy and archiving capabilities. And lastly, to keep the skies clear, cloud providers who offer hosted email services often provide anti-spam services designed to keep out junk and other unwanted mail. Hosted email is perhaps the most affordable cloud-based service given the benefits and functionality. If you think you are paying too much for your current email, tell us about it!

DocuSign, and similar tools

Docusign is a collaborative cloud application service designed to expedite the signing of official documents. While it appears to serve a single purpose, DocuSign can be utilized to advance business development and efficiency. For example, the user can upload a document template to the application’s cloud for easy access, email a copy to the intended recipient and they can digitally sign it, and then return it instantly. Additionally, designate where signatures are required and upload a custom document to the cloud in seconds. It might not sound too impressive at first, but imagine increased operational efficiency within your organization. Client contracts, on-boarding forms, waivers, business proposals, and even progress reports can be completed in record time. Furthermore, DocuSign employs quality encryption security and ensures that the digital signatures are legally binding. Additionally, the application is mobile, with Android, iPhone, and iPad capabilities. You may think that a product like this would cost you a pretty penny, but DocuSign offers Individual, Professional, Business, and Enterprise plans to meet your needs for a low monthly rate. Anyone can benefit from cloud solutions, and associations are actively proving it every day by using products like these. If your organization is not taking advantage of the above opportunities at the very least, you could very well be a half step behind. But behind every gap is a new opportunity for growth. Contact Cetrom for a free cloud-for-associations consultation today.

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