August 6, 2015

What if cloud solutions gave your association virtually no need for an office?

When budgets, staff size and membership numbers are shrinking, associations of all concentrations and sizes look to reduce expenses while serving their members in a timely and efficient manner. Imagine achieving these goals while working from anywhere, at any time, just as if you’re sitting at your desk. It could be on your laptop at a conference, from your phone as you await your flight or even when you must open a document while your toes are in the sand.

You don’t have to wait any longer to move your association into its virtual office. By hosting data and applications in the cloud, associations can easily access all their association management software and resources through only an Internet connection, a browser, and any mobile device or computer.

Cloud solutions such as application hosting, off-site databases and servers, and virtual phone systems offer the tools necessary to create a productive work environment regardless of staff location. For example, facilitating renewals normally requires an association staff member answering phones or corresponding via email to ensure memberships are updated and renewals completed during business hours. Through cloud-based association management software, an organization can automate the membership renewal process, allowing members the flexibility to renew at their convenience and staff to facilitate it at those times.

But before you order that Mai Tai, there are a few considerations to be made for a virtual association to be successful. Once these have been addressed, it will ensure your virtual cloud-based association is an effective association.

1. Confirm Availability of Applications: Associations require a unique set of applications to properly serve their membership. It’s important to make sure your association management applications deliver the same functionality in cloud format as their traditional, on-premise counterparts do. With the right customized solution, associations should be able to fully utilize applications such as:

-Association management software (AMS)
-Learning management systems (LMS)
-Trade show management systems
-Email marketing
-Accounting software
-And more

2. Weigh Cost vs. Value: Cloud solutions can range in price from a minor expense to a hefty amount each month. The key is finding one that is cost effective, meaning the value justifies the cost. Oftentimes, this option will fall in the middle range of pricing, requiring a little more investment than the low-level solutions. Have a budget in mind, but also be flexible. With a quality solution, the extra expense will easily be recouped through increased productivity, efficiency and reliability.

3. Understand the Security: Protecting critical member information is a top priority for associations, so choose a cloud solution that uses a multi-layered security approach. Strong physical security includes armed guards, biometrics, pre-approved clearance and restricted access. Optimized logical security incorporates firewalls, virus protection, intruder prevention, encryption and user-defined permissions. And “methodological” security considers the human factor and confirms every manual process is approved by multiple cleared users.

A survey conducted by Capital One Bank at a recent association symposium found 29% of respondents were planning to transition to cloud solutions. With cloud-based member relations centralized in a single database, access to accurate member data, intuitive association management software and an integrated content management system for website updates streamlining association management, it’s no wonder so many associations have identified the need to go virtual.

The cloud-based association enjoys numerous benefits compared to its on-premise solution peers. One, the cloud association benefits from the ability to access essential applications regardless of location with only an Internet-connected device. Additionally, the association has the capability to budget its IT expenses on a monthly basis instead of as large capital expenditures, and the security and redundancy measures delivered by the cloud are unmatched by on-site solutions. Given this information, the time has come. Move into your virtual association today and work anywhere, anytime tomorrow. Find out how a customized solution can fit your budget and needs.

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