On Cloud Mine

While many in the business world are no strangers to the likes of Dropbox, Salesforce, WordPress, Yammer, Google Apps and other services, many in the sustainability-related fields are relatively new to this. They are often ahead of the curve in global change, but behind in technology. These cloud-based services, however, are perfect for these folks and soon these tools will be as common as email. Here’s why…

The rise of “the Cloud” or “Cloud Computing” has been a boon for early adopters working on social and environmental issues. Real quick for those new to this… the Cloud refers in general to web-based applications built and managed by other companies, hosted away from the users’ offices and accessed through an internet connection, with associated data/documents stored on servers managed offsite by the application provider, and usually paid as a monthly subscription. In short, applications in the cloud are delivered as services rather than products.

Back in the olden days of technology, I mean wayyy back, like 5 years ago, setting up a new web-based platform or tool required an on-site team of experts to configure servers, manage installations, adjust settings and then oversee the thing indefinitely, primarily jumping into action only when something goes wrong. To the benefit of those working in non-Forture 500 companies—those days are done. Sweet relief.

Document sharing and management. Group collaboration. Project management Regular communication. Workflow/process oversight. Website creation. Donor engagement. The Cloud enables these functions and more simply by signing up for services which are managed by another company, and its super nerdy engineers, somewhere else. As a user, you subscribe rather than buy. As an administrator, you drag-and-drop rather than program. The benefits to organizations are many:
~ Set up and management are low cost
~ Updates are usually free and require either no action to enable or just a single click
~ Administration time is minimal, focusing on content management and user permissions rather than software and hardware maintenance
~ Users and admins alike need to have just basic web savvy; no programming skills required
~ Most have mobile app complements for easy anytime connectivity on IOS and Android based phones and tablets
~ There is nothing to manage onsite- a “server room” is a quaint relic of times gone by
~ Initial configuration is easy and ongoing changes can be made on the fly, thus making iterative implementations a walk in the park
~ Training is usually easier as there are tutorials, videos, answers to common problems, etc., since hundreds or thousands of organizations will also be using that tool or platform

Though most of the tools are easy to use immediately upon registration, many can be customized for your specific needs. Ranging from simple things like creating distinct workspaces (cut the clutter and focus!) to much more complex integrations such as Salesforce.com AppExchange add-ons or highly customized WordPress websites, it is super easy to find the right technology answers to sustainability questions. And as I mentioned before, you can add and change as you go so you don’t have to plan for every possible use from the beginning.

Technology of course is just one of many tools necessary to address the complex issues around climate change, resource management, renewable energy and the myriad social issues associated with them. They can be tremendously powerful, however, and now more than ever they are easier and cheaper to implement.

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