United States

Office 365 delivers free enhanced communication platform for nonprofits

MUSE  | 

In recent years, technology has become much more pervasive in nonprofit organizations, with a transition to utilizing multiple devices and a need to access more data from more locations. With this shift, email and other communication tools have become critical applications to stay in contact and share information with employees, donors and volunteers. Instead of spending thousands annually and dedicating significant resources to on-premise email servers, Microsoft has introduced Office 365, a more secure and comprehensive communication platform at no cost to qualified nonprofit organizations.  

In the past, organizations may have considered their enterprise resource planning system or their funding system as their most critical IT tool; however, with more attention now on communication and collaboration, email is now a mission-critical application that your organization cannot function without. Email must be available and operational at all times, or your organization will struggle to reach its goals.

Office 365 can potentially save your organization tens of thousands of dollars with a cloud deployment compared to hosting email in an on-premise data center that requires licensing, hardware and storage. In addition, instead of focusing staffing resources on maintaining internal email systems, you can refocus those assets to be more strategic to achieving your mission.  

It has become evident that nonprofit organizations must transition email platforms out of their internal environments. A cloud deployment is much more affordable and secure, but is also more reliable. Many organizations think that if a disaster or service interruption occurs, an on-premise email environment can be restored quickly; however, in reality, most restores take between 8-16 hours, or even longer. For an application that is so critical, you cannot afford to lose 1-2 days of productivity and potentially significant amounts of data.

Organizations are moving applications to the cloud, transitioning functions such as payroll processing and travel to external data centers. Unfortunately, many are hesitant to house organizational communications in an external data environment. However, reputable cloud providers such as Microsoft can offer solutions that are much more affordable and secure, and provide more availability than on-premise platforms.

From a security standpoint, many organizations pay additional fees for security services for on-premise email systems. It may be a nominal fee per user per month, but those fees add up when the alternative is free. An Office 365 platform provides guaranteed 99.9 percent uptime, minimizing the risk of any significant downtime. In the event of any critical issues, Office 365 provides IT-level Web support and 24/7 phone support.

Microsoft is the largest email provider in the world, and invests hundreds of millions of dollars in security annually to mitigate virus, malware and breach threats. To ease concerns about hosting information in a shared environment, Microsoft's cloud framework prevents an organization's data from interacting with another environment. It also does regular, stringent auditing and testing, and provides an immense level of transparency for security procedures.

Most of the attention Office 365 receives is from its robust email capabilities, but it also offers several additional features that can benefit nonprofit organizations. In fact, some organizations may already utilize Office 365 email functionality, but may not take advantage of the full range of communication services the platform provides. In addition to email, Office 365 includes SharePoint, Skype for Business and OneDrive Business at no added cost. Each of these features can improve communication abilities and better support employee and volunteer efforts.

Office 365's messaging, file sharing and collaboration capabilities are the same ones found in high-end corporate environments. For instance, Skype for Business is a compelling tool to help interact with constituents, while SharePoint can help manage internal communications, as well as events and activities. Now nonprofits can take advantage of these tools that they typically would not have the time or funding to implement.

Email has become the most critical application for nonprofit organizations, with most of your business likely conducted through email. If your organization still maintains on-premise email servers, Office 365 can present several key benefits. At no cost for nonprofit organizations, there is simply not another option at a comparable price that provides a similar level of security, performance and availability.

If you have not evaluated Office 365, the time is now to determine how it can enhance your organization's communication capabilities and allow you to refocus financial and personnel resources. On the other hand, if you have already deployed Office 365, you must ensure that you are utilizing it to its full potential. A qualified technology advisor can help you understand how to implement the platform effectively to help you achieve your mission.