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Take your nonprofit onto the cloud with Amazon Web Services!

Cloud ComputingCollaborationComputers, Servers & NetworksData & Relationship Management

We are thrilled to announce that Amazon Web Services (AWS) is now a TechSoup Canada donor partner!

AWS provides organizations around the world with access to affordable, scalable, and customizable cloud computing services. With AWS, your nonprofit can build websites, develop apps, manage outreach and fundraising, and host core business and employee-facing systems. There’s no need to manage your own servers or to pay for computing power you’re not using -- the system is built on Amazon’s global IT infrastructure, which means there are no upfront costs or capital investments for you. And because AWS is completely on-demand, you can scale services and costs up and down based on your needs in the moment. All of this enables you to devote more time, energy, and resources to achieving your organization’s mission. 

Through TechSoup Canada, AWS is offering eligible organizations grants worth US$2,000 in credits for on-demand cloud services over the course of 12 months. 

What should I know about cloud computing?

Thanks to an increase in service providers, competitive pricing structures, and better internet connectivity, more and more nonprofits are embracing cloud computing. It’s becoming easier to migrate just about every aspect of your organization’s digital infrastructure to the cloud, from website hosting and document creation to HR processing and data management

However, there’s still a great deal of uncertainty around what “the cloud” actually is and the benefits it can offer. Essentially, cloud computing refers to a variety of services that you access via the internet. When you’re using a cloud service, the actual computing is being done on a datacenter outside of your organization, rather than on your desktop or laptop. If you’ve ever edited a document in Google Drive or made online updates to your donor database in DonorPerfect, you’ve used cloud computing services.  

In terms of fundamental advantages, working in the cloud allows you to collaborate in real-time with people across different locations and organizations. Because your data is being stored in a datacentre, you don’t have worry about setting up and maintaining your own servers; similarly, cloud service providers take care of software updates on their end, meaning that you won’t have to do those manually. And having your data live online can make data recovery and business continuity faster, easier, and more streamlined.

There are drawbacks, of course. First and foremost, because they are internet-based, cloud services are only a feasible option if your nonprofit is located somewhere with high-speed, stable internet access. Beyond this, using a cloud service provider gives you less control over your data, which is an issue from both a cybersecurity and data privacy perspective (as there are regulations in Canada that require some kinds of data to reside only in Canada). Finally, no service provider can guarantee 100 percent data centre uptime -- periods of service outage are inevitable. 

Fortunately, major cloud service providers such as AWS, Google, and Microsoft do a lot to maximize the advantages of using the cloud and mitigate its risks. All of these companies boast top-notch security, minimal downtime, and robust and integrated services.

What’s especially powerful about AWS is the flexibility and scalability it provides. With AWS, you only pay for the services and capacity you actually need at any given time. For example, if you experience a surge in web traffic and online donations during the holiday season, you could pay for extra cloud capacity during this time period to ensure your website can handle the added demand. Once the holiday season is over and traffic slows down, you can scale down again. 

This level of responsiveness helps drive down costs in both the short- and long-term, and it lets you be proactive in making your digital processes as smooth and as strong as possible.

How can AWS benefit my organization? 

AWS is one of the biggest and most well-established cloud service providers in the world. As an AWS customer, you’re getting access to the same IT infrastructure that Amazon uses to run its own massive global operations -- so if you’re concerned about issues such as security and availability, you can rest assured that AWS ranks among the very best in the industry. 

In fact, the AWS infrastructure is so robust and powerful that it now plays a major role in the pursuit of a cure for Parkinson's disease. 

Developing therapies for a disease as complex as Parkinson’s requires vast amounts of precise biomedical data. But not only is the body of data limited, individual research teams often work in silos and only have access to a fraction of the data they need to make breakthroughs. All of this stymies progress and momentum. 

AWS helps the Michael J. Fox Foundation leverage technology to radically expand the breadth of available biomedical data, as well as access to it. In one research study, the Fox Foundation provides research subjects with smartwatches, which they wear as they go about their daily lives. The watches capture every movement a subject makes; this data is continually streamed to a database hosted and managed on AWS. 

This “phenotypic” information provides critical insight into what day-to-day life is like for people living with Parkinson’s. AWS makes it easy for the Fox Foundation to grant research teams access to this rich and ever-expanding body of data. In this way, AWS is helping to break down the research siloes that hamper progress in the fight against Parkinson’s. 

But on their end, study participants do more than just provide data. With AWS, the Fox Foundation has developed a research study companion app that helps patients stay on top of their medication usage. When it’s time for the patient to take medicine, a popup appears on the patient’s smartwatch and smartphone. Monitoring medication usage not only helps the patient, it provides another source of critical data for the study. 

Even if you’re not orchestrating multinational research projects, you’re still collecting data, running complex organizational processes, and fostering collaboration across teams. AWS can help all of these things come together in ways that are seamless, integrated, and affordable.

Next Steps

What is the AWS Credits Program for Nonprofits?

The AWS Credits Program for Nonprofits provides access to AWS Promotional Credits. Through TechSoup Canada, AWS makes grants worth US$2,000 in credits to eligible organizations. Organizations can apply these service credits toward usage fees for all AWS on-demand cloud services, as available by region. AWS credits are not valid for Reserved Instances (RIs), Mechanical Turk, Route53 domain purchases, or support launch fees. They are available for monthly support fees.

In addition to the AWS Credits Program for Nonprofits, AWS offers the AWS Free Tier for all new customers for 12 months following the organization's sign-up date. The AWS Free Tier is a separate offer from the AWS Credits Program and allows new customers to use certain AWS services for free up to certain usage limits. The AWS Free Tier is available for one AWS account only per organization.

AWS recommends that potential grant recipients sign up for the AWS Free Tier before they request this offer. Note that receiving AWS credits will not reset the 12-month duration of the AWS Free Tier.

In most situations, organizations will use both the AWS Credits Program for Nonprofits and the AWS Free Tier. This combination can help organizations leverage AWS's cloud infrastructure on a pay-as-you-go basis to host websites and fundraising software, store and analyze data, and develop new systems.

Is my organization eligible?

This program is available to qualifying Canadian Registered Charities registered with the Canada Revenue Agency, Canadian nonprofits incorporated either provincially or at the federal level and Canadian public libraries with a library symbol from Library and Archives Canada. For a more detailed breakdown of eligible and ineligible organizations, check out AWS Credits program guidelines.

How many grants can I apply for?

Eligible organizations may request one initial grant of US$2,000 in AWS credits within the lifetime of the organization, as well as one renewal grant in this program within a fiscal year (July 1 to June 30).

Not registered with TechSoup Canada, but think you are eligible for AWS Credits?

The first step is to register with TechSoup Canada — it’s free and simple. Once we have processed your registration, we will let you know if you qualify for AWS Credits for Nonprofits.

Registering with us also grants you access to discounts and donations from up to 30 other donor partners, which includes popular software like office productivity suites, graphic design software, accounting packages and security programs. Find out how the donations program can work for an organization like yours!