Cloud Computing is when the ready availability of computing services like databases, data storage, servers, networking, analytics, high-speed computing and faster software is utilized without any direct intervention of the administrator. With the aid of the internet, the cloud could provide various computing resources remotely to a user. It is a powerful tool that can transform the dynamics of modern system management and functioning. Based on studies, nearly 28% of NGOs use some form of CRM-based Cloud software in their operations.
Cloud computing may be limited to a single organization (enterprise cloud) or multiple groups of organizations collectively (public cloud). Cloud computing offers the pool of resources that any group can use on-demand - right from processing power to application functionality and storage.
With the help of these new technologies, NGOs can replace their outdated technology and can also do away with the challenges they face while storing/ analyzing their data. Also, NGOs facing difficulties in streamlining their data, minimising infrastructure costs, communication and workflow complications, can ease these with the help of cloud computing. Nearly 40% of NGOs worldwide are now shifting from traditional IT mechanisms to cloud computing. Eg. Akshaya Patra Foundation uses cloud computing for food tracking and management.
There are three types of Cloud models -
Public Cloud - A public cloud is an open computing service that third-party service providers provide to the public over the internet. The resources availability like storage capacity, the application uses, virtual machine processes may vary accordingly (can either be free or based on its model/ subscription pack).
Private Cloud - Private cloud is a type of computing that delivers similar or better advantages of cloud computing dedicated to a single enterprise. Unlike a public cloud, a private cloud focuses on the needs and requirements of a specific organization.
Hybrid Cloud - Hybrid cloud is an infrastructure that links the cloud managed by a third-party user (usually public cloud) and a private cloud. The workload portability, deployments and management orchestrate between 2 or more separate environments. By consolidating multiple networks and scaling out the resources more efficiently, the hybrid cloud works seamlessly and edges out in terms of speed and processing power. Eg. AWS Outposts.
Let us now understand different kinds of cloud services and how NGOs can utilize them for their impact needs -
SaaS (Software-as-a-service) - SaaS is the application delivery of the software's functions and utilities on a cloud infrastructure. Two most common examples of SaaS models are Microsoft Azure and Google's G-Suite. The functions of an enterprise application's range of services are present on these cloud-based platforms. All the software, database's access and utilities are open to the user. Eg. Salesforce, Slack, Hubspot, etc.
How can NGOs use SaaS for their benefit?
Lower-up-front costs - SaaS is generally a subscription-based platform that extends software services on demand. The provider of SaaS manages the IT Infrastructure thereby reducing the cost of hardware maintenance and software management.
Easier set-up and deployment - The cloud usually configures all the requirements and installations, reducing the set-up costs and deployment hassles that are generally faced by organisations during installation of hardwares or softwares.
Easy Upgrades - All the necessary updates are handled by the central server that is hosting the cloud. It can reduce delays, cost burdens and additional responsibilities for NGOs.
Accessibility and Flexibility - The minimum requirements for using the SaaS cloud is internet connectivity and a browser, making it very accessible. The cloud offers a wide range of subscription packs and business models, as required by NGOs and also personalized models that can be used to their benefit.
IaaS ( Infrastructure-as-a-service) - IaaS is a type of cloud computing that offers instant computing infrastructure, virtually personalized resources, server technology and provisions over the internet. Unlike SaaS, NGOs can opt to pay for only those technologies that they use. They also have more freedom throughout its apps and the platform. In this cloud, one can deploy the NGOs arbitrary applications and software. Eg. AWS EC2, Rackspace, Google Compute Engine (GCE), Digital Ocean, etc.
How can NGOs benefit from IaaS?
Dynamic - Since NGOs have the power to control their technologies and platforms, they can use high-level APIs(Application Programming Interface), physical datacenter and servers, etc. as per their model or software requirements. It is the most flexible and dynamic model.
Rent-control - Since NGOs will pay for the models/architects of applications and platform they use, it reduces the capital costs and high-end infrastructure costs. IaaS reduces overall costs in terms of hardware maintenance and installations.
Control - The NGOs gain control of the computer resources along with its portability. They have full authority over the infrastructure and access to the vast computing power of the cloud.
Easy-to-use - The cloud systems are easy to use. All the management tasks are automated and virtualized, hence providing employees with free time for other tasks.
PaaS ( Platform-as-a-service) - PaaS is a computing model that allows third-party organizations to provide software and hardware tools over the internet, that are deemed necessary for building applications and software. In the case of PaaS, the infrastructure ( data centre frameworks usually involve servers, storage subsystems, networking devices, like switches, routers, physical cables, and dedicated network appliances, such as network firewalls) is available to the organization. PaaS underlies cloud infrastructure such as systems, databases, storage, servers, operating systems, middleware, libraries, etc. from the service provider. Eg. AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Heroku, etc.
How can NGOs benefit from PaaS?
Cost-effective - Just like the previous two cloud types, PaaS is cloud effective and doesn't require any additional capital costs. It offers the NGOs those resources that it needs for application development and management.
Freedom and Creativity - PaaS is the best kind of cloud computing for NGOs if they have developers and/or programmers. They get sets of services and workflows that use shared tools, processes, and APIs to accelerate the development, enable testing, and deployment of applications.
Time management - PaaS offers improved time management features for developers and architects with its access to numerous automated tools and technological innovations. It helps the developer to speed up the process of creating and deploying the apps in their environment space.
Upgradation and scalability - In PaaS, NGOs develop their self-built stack, thereby allowing the developers to integrate and continuously update their components for any new extensions. Also, PaaS has a default scalability mechanism that enables the NGOs to allocate and utilize resources based on the requirements and expected scale.
FaaS ( Function-as-a-service) - Also known as serverless cloud computing, FaaS is the service that allows the deployment of the applications on the cloud. It uses the modular pieces of code to the edge results, hence creating a function. The functions execute in response to the features and functions the user requires at the moment. FaaS develops and implements microservices that enables the use of the function for the required instance. Eg. Amazon Lambda, IBM Cloud functions, Microsoft Azure Functions.
How can NGOs benefit from FaaS?
Improve developer's zone - FaaS helps the developers to concentrate on application logic rather than server issues and migration issues. It increases the speed of development time around.
Cost efficiency - Like the other types of cloud computing, the NGOs and developers need only pay for microservices they use instead of the computational time.
Scalability - With dynamic scaling and excellent recovery options, FaaS utilizes the most coherent attributes of cloud computing. NGOs having developers and testers can avail these benefits to ease their programming sequence.
Microservices and functions - Implementation of microservices and functions enable the use of edge computing. The user will only use the specific function instance, thereby reducing costs and increasing efficiency and speed. It also provides an easy path for developing new cloud services and migrating data faster.
As you can see, cloud computing's vast power and low capital investments make it the ideal choice of replacement for the current scenario of traditional infrastructure that tends to prove itself inefficient and unscalable compared to cloud computing.