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As nonprofits increasingly depend on hosted web applications to support their operations and programmatic work, each organization is creating a complex, unique and distributed set of information resources. These assets live on different servers, in different formats, managed by different software, under different licenses, in different jurisdictions. Online storage of membership and supporter databases, mailing lists, web applications, shared documents, remote backups, audio, video, and images comprise a larger volume of the nonprofit information lifeblood each day, but their long-term availability and cohesion is by no means a given.
And nonprofits are not always cognizant of risks raised by these new software and storage models. Data that is remotely stored can become unavailable and be lost in a number of ways. Ownership of hosted data is not always well-defined or well-understood, and control of hosted data is too often through individual staff members rather than through the organization. Nonprofits working on controversial issues expose themselves to new surveillance risks when information is managed by third parties, and security and backup take on new complexities when data lives outside the physical office. Just knowing where all the data lives is an ongoing challenge.
But there are concrete steps each nonprofit can take to retain control of their data destiny. The seminar reflected on 5 critical things each nonprofit should know as they host their data remotely. The session were interactive and participant driven, with specific scenarios addressed.