Each day we work with people who serve in a variety of roles at churches throughout the United States and beyond. While some are IT staff or other form of techies, many are not familiar with the lingo you hear when dealing with a software company. So they have plenty of questions about church management technology, including the cloud.
We’re not talking cumulonimbus here, but the off-site storage of your information—“in the cloud.” Even though cloud storage has been around for several years and is a great option for churches, many are still reluctant to put their trust in technology they can’t see. But there are a few things you should consider before dismissing this service for your ChMS data.
You’re probably already using some type of cloud technology. You just don’t realize it.
If you use email services like Gmail, share photos on social outlets like Facebook, or back up the information on your iPhone, then you’ve already taken advantage of cloud technology. You’re not storing those messages, images, or data on your own server—a company is keeping track of all that for you.
What are other churches doing?
According to a 2013 survey, 80% of large churches are using a cloud of some sort, while just over half of all churches with fewer than 1,000 in weekly attendance take advantage of this technology. These numbers continue to grow as more and more churches see the value of this service.
Cloud storage offers several benefits to the church:
Consider all the information included in your church database. You might have records for 300 people or 30,000. Now imagine the hardware required for your church to store all of that information on-site—not to mention the audio/video files from the latest sermon series available on your website or mobile app.
With your information in the cloud, you don’t need to worry about the cost of hardware, upkeep, and maintenance needed to maintain all those records. They’re more quickly and easily accessible than if your church were trying to tackle the job with limited technology. And you’ll experience minimized downtime because of the amount of backup in the case of a system outage.
SAFETY & SECURITY
Your information is probably safer from theft and damage in the cloud than in the church basement. Although all data storage is somewhat susceptible, an experienced provider can better withstand these dangers where individual churches could not afford such security. Credible ChMS providers will heavily invest in antivirus software and disaster recovery plans to protect your information as well as safeguard hardware from natural disaster and any physical damage.
When you’re using a web-based solution that stores information in the cloud, you can access your database from anywhere that has an active internet connection. You can also make any necessary changes and the database will update automatically—whether you’re working on your office computer or laptop at the local coffee shop.
Churches often lack the technological resources to manage the breadth of information included in their extensive databases. But even those churches that do staff a full IT department don’t need that burden on the ministry’s shoulders. It’s not where they want to focus their time and energy. Utilizing cloud technology means less worry for the local church.
Churches using cloud technology to enable online giving are more likely—almost twice as likely—to see an increase in contributions. They are also significantly more likely to engage their church communities through a variety of media like mobile apps and blogs.
Multi-site churches, although regionally spread out, can all access the same information on their church database when it’s stored in the cloud. So whether someone checks in at your downtown campus or a satellite location, the record is updated.
What are the negatives?
Although utilizing the cloud will save your church time, resources, and hassle, it’s not perfect—no system is. There are still risks because storage still physically exists somewhere. Even with preventative measures, cloud-based storage could be damaged or hacked. But your church’s system is still likely much more vulnerable. Because of the great measures a provider will go to in order to keep your information safe, cloud-based storage can also be pricier than do-it-yourself—but worth the investment.
Safeguard against the risks
Even though your information may not be on-site, the devices you and your staff use to access your database aren’t in the cloud. Keep the computer that you’re accessing this valuable data from safe—make usernames and passwords secure and be wise about sharing credentials. And check out some great tips on tough-to-crack passwords and staying safe in the cloud.
In most cases, the benefits of cloud storage greatly outweigh any risks. If you haven’t already made the switch, consider using this technology for your church to make things easier for your staff. It just might leave them floating on cloud nine.