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Harold Kilpatrick

By: Harold Kilpatrick, Security Consultant and Blogger

Nonprofit organizations have many of the same needs as for-profit businesses, from data storage to digital security. However, because so many nonprofits are strapped for resources, such basic needs are often viewed as unaffordable luxury items. For example, for many nonprofits, the cost of paying an IT consultant to host their email servers and to manage their data encryption can be prohibitive.

If you're not investing in these essential elements of your IT infrastructure, you're ultimately hurting your organization's ability to pursue its mission.

Fortunately, developments in cloud computing and Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology have made storage, collaboration, and security more accessible to the nonprofit sector. These two technologies are quite different from one another, but they offer a set of interlocking benefits. By developing an understanding of cloud computing as it relates to VPN technology, you can figure out how to harness both solutions for your organization.

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing allows third-party companies (such as AWS, Google, and Microsoft) to deliver their services to end-users, where the latter don’t have to buy additional hardware or install any software. These services include storage, servers, and applications.

To access these services, individuals or organizations must have Internet access. Every piece of data, including applications, is hosted on a remote server, rather than the local hard drive. The maintenance, upgrades, cybersecurity and backup processes are all handled externally, by the company selling cloud computing services.

Some of the benefits of cloud computing are:

  • Great flexibility – businesses with fluctuating needs and demands can easily scale down or up the cloud capacity.
  • It’s a great backup and recovery solution – cloud storage can save you a lot of trouble if a disaster comes your way. Your data will stay safe in the cloud, and ready to be used again.
  • It enables work from anywhere, as long as there’s an Internet connection.
  • Cut down expenses – you won't have to invest in IT infrastructure and expensive in-house server management.

What is VPN?

VPN technology enables users to access the Internet securely and privately. VPN is basically a remote server through which you connect and access the Internet. Since the VPN protocol features a number of encryption methods, all of your online communications and data remain hidden from the prying eyes of cybercriminals.

Since all the traffic is encrypted, you can use a VPN on a public network and remain secure while retaining privacy.

There are many cheap VPNs out there, but you need to do your homework to make sure you’re signing up for provider that both meets your needs and offers reliable service.

When to use cloud and VPN solutions together

Non-profit organizations have to manage and optimize unique business processes, such as donation pages and volunteer recruitment pages. Because a lot of the important work nonprofits increasingly do is online, cloud computing can help them streamline their workflow. But if you are connecting to cloud computing services over an unsecured Internet network, you run the risk of a security breach.

This is where a VPN can provide an extra security boost. While your cloud application can give you access to your data and email at any time, your VPN will give you a secure pipeline to connect to the servers, nonprofit offices, and other workers.

Ultimately, data security is important in the nonprofit sector, especially with strict compliance/regulation requirements regarding donor or member information. If your nonprofit deals with especially sensitive information (i.e. court records, health data, etc.), you may consider using a VPN whenever connecting to the cloud.

About the author

Harold is a cyber security consultant and a freelance blogger. He’s currently working on multiple cyber security campaigns to raise awareness of the threats that businesses can face online.