Seven Criteria for Evaluating Cloud-Based File Sharing Solutions for Your Organization

During my presentation at the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Annual Meeting in August, one question I was asked a lot was: “What exactly is cloud-based file sharing and how do we use it for organizational productivity?”
My simple, straight-forward response was that cloud-based file sharing allows an organization’s remote users to store, share, and collaborate on the same document in real time, in the cloud – no physical server is needed to store or process the document. Forward-thinking organizations are already embracing cloud-based file sharing to facilitate operational synergy, agility, efficiency, and collaboration. Recently, there has been considerable growth in cloud-based file sharing adoption rates across a broad range of cloud solutions. In this blog, I’ll focus specifically on how associations and nonprofit organizations with geographically dispersed staff, volunteers, or members can take full advantage of cloud-based file sharing to:
    • Support remote staff, volunteer, members
    • Stay relevant, active, functional, and engaging
    • Attract younger, mobile/cloud-friendly audience
    • Increase productivity and transparency
    • Facilitate progress towards goals and missions
Amidst numerous cloud-based file sharing solutions available to nonprofits and associations today, how do you help your organization make the selection that works successfully for your unique goals and resources? Below are seven critical evaluation criteria I shared with my Annual Meeting attendees:
    1. Security – how secure is it and is that security level sufficient for your organization’s needs? Some security levels can be found in the service provider’s service level agreement (SLAs)
    2. Mobile access – people want flexibility to work anytime, anywhere, from any devices they want
    3. Costs – impact on your organization’s budget and resources
    4. Degree of control – who has full or partial access, which folders are shared and which are private, and what reports can be run?
    5. Internal/external users (consultants, volunteers, members) – what types of licenses are required for each type of access and how will your organization decide who has what access?
    6. Training – what requirements/knowledge do users need to know to use the application efficiently and effectively?
    7. Single sign on (SSO) – this allows your staff and members to log onto multiple applications by entering their login information only once. It is an important feature to evaluate if your organization has multiple third-party applications (association management system, content management system, journals, etc.)
One important takeaway I emphasized to my audience was the need to prioritize the factors above. A solution that seems to work best overall but performs poorly on your organization’s top priority may not be the most ideal for your organization after all. While leading cloud solution providers may improve and change their offerings frequently, these seven criteria remain an important starting point and should be carefully considered before you take the leap to collaborating in the cloud.
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