How to Improve Cloud IT & Support for Nonprofits (3 Quick Wins)

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February 8, 2022

Nonprofits can rapidly improve the performance of Cloud IT services and support by making three minor adjustments.

We’ll review three quick wins with supporting data culled from the network assessment of a small nonprofit (NFP). The IT discovery process, conducted by a vCIO and a network engineer, included a digital review, IT document analysis, and leadership interviews.

Each example provides insights your NFP can employ to identify gaps and potential next steps for remediation with your IT provider.

Win #1 – Optimize Cloud IT with a comprehensive strategy for Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR)

Your mission is more difficult to fulfill when your cloud applications, critical file shares, and BDR services are disjointed.

This scattering of IT assets happens when an organization lacks a backup strategy.

We’ve been analyzing nonprofit tech environments for over twenty years, and the following observations are universal.

  • Organizations use Microsoft 365 (M365) for email.
  • They store files in Dropbox for Business.
  • Neither M365 nor Dropbox have backup activated.
  • Critical data sits on workstations instead of centralized file shares.
  • User machines have Carbonite and Time Machine backups.

Your BDR strategy starts by answering three questions:

  • Where is our data?
  • How much time is allowed to pass during a disruption before our data loss reaches an unacceptable threshold?
  • “How much time does it take us to recover after notification of a business process disruption?”

For starters, organizations like this need to consolidate their email and storage within M365. By activating SharePoint for collaboration and OneDrive for storage, they can remove file shares from Dropbox.

There’s nothing wrong with Dropbox. However, it’s one more proverbial cat to herd. And simplifying your cloud footprint will always reduce IT support gaps.

Now M365 email and file shares can be retained for specific time intervals, archived, backed up with an onsite appliance, and replicated offsite in multiple clouds.

Incremental backups throughout the day reduce data loss. And nightly test restores ensure the process is working.

Next, the IT provider should migrate data from user machines to M365. This shift to a central location fine-tunes the user experience, expands access, and obviates the need for Carbonite and Time Machine.

What are the three practical benefits of these recommendations?

  • The organization dramatically reduces its data loss window. Who knows? They may even completely shut the window if they employ replication across several geographically diverse data centers.
  • Recovery time accelerates because the MSP doesn’t have to troubleshoot with Dropbox, Carbonite, Time Machine, and individual workstations.
  • Finally, the objectives and metrics in the plan are easy to document and communicate to stakeholders.

Learn More: Cloud BDR & IT Support

Win #2 – Enhance IT support for your nonprofit with up-to-date network equipment.

Network equipment AKA “infrastructure” is a general term for switches, Wi-Fi access points, low-voltage cabling, firewalls, workstations (desktops, laptops, mobile devices), backup devices, UPS appliances, security cameras, telecom, AV solutions, and more.

Each item or endpoint is harder to support when it doesn’t integrate well with every other element in the environment.

When any IT component is past its prime, it’s more prone to crash and most likely to require hands-on remediation from an IT provider.

The five stages of life are as follows:

  • Active
  • End of sale
  • End of maintenance
  • End of support
  • End of life

The switch connects and unifies every device in your local area network, including Internet access, phone systems, and cloud applications.

So even if everything else is up to date, a seven to ten-year-old switch is approaching the end of its recommended life span. Why is this a problem? It will be slower, less reliable for managing data traffic, and easier to compromise by nefarious actors.

These episodes are always inconvenient, which drives the need for systematic evaluation, updates, and replacement.

Learn More: Keeping Network Equipment Up to Date

 

Win #3 – Fine-tune Microsoft 365 (M365) settings for an instant security win in the Cloud.

M365’s bottomless pit of features and settings require constant adjustments and tweaks from certified Microsoft Cloud Specialists.

Close to 1,000 security options need regular review to ensure compliance with your organization’s policies and security posture.

If you have ever attempted to explore the far corners of your iPhone, you know how easy it is to get lost, break something that was working, run out of energy reactivating services, then forget what you changed.

Many businesses are in the same position with M365’s myriad cloud configuration options. They have barely scratched the surface to leverage and optimize the security, collaboration, and integration enhancements.

Cloud applications don’t have default security settings, which is why we recommend getting assistance from an MSP to tweak the following seven services:

  • Data Leak Prevention (DLP) policies
  • Guest and external access in Teams
  • OneDrive/SharePoint permissions
  • Conditional Access Policies
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
  • Password Policy
  • Security Alert Policies

By activating and customizing this portfolio of features, your typical nonprofit can offer 24/7, secure access to Cloud applications with built-in safeguards and conditions to ensure all users are verified.

The possibilities are endless. For example, full-time employees get 24/7 access based on job functions. On the other hand, volunteer access depends on job role, a forty-hour workweek, and geographical location.

How does this work? A summer volunteer has access to the system between 9 AM and 5 PM, Monday to Friday. Once they leave the office, they can’t log in remotely.

The same is true if they leave the state during the week. The system only verifies volunteer identities within the city limits of headquarters.

Lastly, they are completely blocked from the organization’s M365 Cloud once they return to college in the fall.

Learn More: M365 Security Settings

How do we start making improvements right now?

Get assistance from a cloud-forward MSP that can strategically guide you through the nuances of the Microsoft Cloud.

Don’t try this alone. There are a dizzying array of programs, licenses, and a new pricing plan that begins in March of 2022.

It’s not as flexible as the current arrangement, and we don’t want you paying for licenses you don’t need and getting hit with cancellation penalties.

Learn More: Microsoft’s New Pricing Plans

 

 

Jed is a Solution Advisor at Integris who has specialized in MSP solution development, sales, and marketing communications since 2003.

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