September 19, 2012

Nonprofits Are Excited—and Confused—About Cloud Computing

survey of nonprofits around the world finds both great interest and significant confusion about the potential of cloud computing.

Representatives of more than 10,500 charities from 88 countries answered questions about how their organizations use software located on the Internet rather than from a hard drive or local computer network. The survey was conducted by TechSoup Global, a nonprofit technology group.

The study found that most nonprofits already have some experience with cloud computing. Ninety percent of charities reported using at least one online application.

The cloud-based services named most frequently by survey participants were e-mail (55 percent), social networks (47 percent), file storage and sharing (26 percent), Web conferencing (24 percent), and office productivity (23 percent).

But some respondents seemed unaware of which services are cloud-based. While only 24 percent of survey respondents reported using cloud-based Web conferencing in general, 55 percent said they used specific cloud-based Web-conferencing programs: WebEx, Citrix GoToMeeting, ReadyTalk, or Skype. “This discrepancy seems to be a further indication of lack of knowledge about cloud computing,” write the authors of the report.

In fact, 60 percent of survey participants said “lack of knowledge” was a major barrier to the adoption of cloud computing, the most often cited hurdle in the study. The second biggest barrier was cost, cited by 49 percent of participants.

But despite the obstacles, 53 percent of nonprofits said their organizations plan to move a “significant portion” of their information technology online within three years.