Leah Merrill describes the "cloud" and gives eight big benefits of having cloud-based church management software.
What exactly is the cloud anyway?
Checking out a couple of blog posts about it might not enlighten you all that much. One thing you know- it’s huge right now. Everyone seems to be talking about “moving to the cloud.” So what does that mean for you? Is it something your church should consider? And what is it exactly?
First of all defining “the cloud” isn’t as helpful as defining what it is to “be in the cloud” or be “cloud-based.” When a service or application is “cloud-based,” that means that it resides solely on the internet and is thus accessible at all times (it’s also usually synonymous with “web-based”). An easy example is Google Drive, which used to be Google Docs– it’s completely online and only accessible through your browser. That’s in contrast to Microsoft Word, which is solely accessible from your computer desktop, and it does not require you to be connected to the internet to use it.
You’ve probably realized by now that you actually use the cloud all the time. If you use Gmail, Mediafire, online banking solutions, or other web services that aren’t installed on your computer, you are part of the cloud community. Cloud-based solutions are often faster, newer, and easier to understand than desktop solutions, which is why they are so increasingly popular.
So what’s the big deal, you ask? I use the cloud, it’s great, but what does it have to do with my church?
Surprisingly it can have a lot to do with your church. Just like Google developed Google Drive for storing files and collaborating on products with friends or coworkers, many companies have developed web-based software just for churches to more easily connect with their congregations!
But why would your church want to be a part of the cloud?
Here are eight big benefits of cloud-based church management software.
1) Because cloud-based software is on the internet, it’s available to anyone at any time. You’ll get live updates instead of outdated information. You might not even have to hit the “refresh” button on your browser.
2) Cloud-based software requires a lot less worry about issues like hardware, installation, and tech support because it’s all taken care of by the company that provides your service. All you have to worry about is your browser and internet connection.
3) It’s less risky to start out with. If you’re a small church and you’re afraid of buying a huge software suite that has the potential to blow your budget and still not do what you need it to, Software as a Service (SaaS) is a great alternative. SaaS is just another phrase for web-based/cloud software, and it simply means that you pay a licensing fee to access the service for a certain period of time (usually a month or a year) instead of a one-time, upfront payment. These fees are often billed monthly, which means they’re much more affordable and can offer you more flexibility if you decide the software isn’t working for you several months down the road.
4) Because you won’t have any installed software, upgrades are something that happen on the site, so you don’t need to convert, transfer, or upgrade anything yourself which can save you a lot of time.
5) The cloud is actually very secure. This can be a hard thing for some people to get used to because we like having files in a storage cabinet and documents on our hard drive, but the cloud is often safer than desktop storage. Because companies that provide data hosting services have more at risk, they will have better tech support and protection for what’s stored on their servers than the security you have for your Mac or PC.
6) Cloud-based applications are able to interface with other cloud-based applications. Makes sense, right? Because they were structured with the same thought in mind, there’s more chance that your cloud-based software can import videos from YouTube than your desktop software from 3 years ago. Also, if you use other cloud-based applications already, like accounting, donor management, or event management software, it’s more likely that a cloud church management software could integrate with those systems.
7) Cloud-based solutions are inherently more current. Cloud-based software isn’t brand new, but it’s really taken off over the past decade, and some companies even think they will be operating solely in the cloud within the next 10 years. It’s much harder to find outdated cloud software than it is to find outdated desktop software.
8) Most cloud-based software solutions have a tiered approach, which means it can shrink or expand with your church. You might not care about mobile apps now, but when your membership numbers get up in the thousands, you might start considering it. Conversely, you can choose to unsubscribe to services you no longer need with cloud software, but it’s hard to uninstall features from your desktop software.
Cloud-based software is the wave of the future according to many people, and it’s certainly having a big impact on the way we do things. However, don’t feel pressured to take the plunge if you don’t think these benefits are essential to your church. There are plenty of online directories that list both web-based and non-web-based solutions. You can check them out and see if the cloud is right for you.
Written By Leah Merrill