In the past, a complex special purpose software program like church management software would require all of the following on the church premises: adequate hardware, experts to install and manage the software, training for users, networked computers, centralized storage, user licenses, software maintenance fees, failover, and data backup. If the church does not have all of the equipment and expertise “in house”, is there a simple way to outsource the complex software needs of the church? The good news is that cloud computing is maturing into the outsourcing solution that makes sense for small, medium, and large churches.
Cloud computing is a popular concept in technology today, and although the underlying ideas have been around for a while in various forms, the term was not coined until 2007. Cloud computing is growing and has a bright future. In general, cloud computing allows a variety of client devices to share information and software services over the Internet. The client devices do not know the details about how the information is manipulated and stored in the cloud. This article takes a closer look at a form of cloud computing called “software as a service” (SaaS), such as online church management software.
With SaaS, users access a web application in a web browser running on a variety of computing platforms such as mobile devices, Windows computers, and Apple computers. The web application interacts with web services running on a web server in a secure data center using standard Internet protocols such as HTTP, ASP, PHP and CGI. The web services manage client data stored in a database on the web server. The data center and the web servers provide service level agreements (SLAs) that guarantee access in spite of power outages, system upgrades, and hardware failures.
The benefits of a cloud computing solution such as online church management software include:
- No initial costly software purchase. Just pay a monthly subscription for the use of the software.
- No risk of data loss due to a hard drive crash on the church computer.
- Multiple users can share the same data.
- Data can be accessed and modified from anywhere.
- Application upgrades are performed on the web server rather than the client computer.
- Data is stored in a secure data center rather than on a vulnerable computer in a church office.
- No licensing fees for additional users. Subscription is for the entire church.
- No training or ramp-up time for new users. Web application takes advantage of the fact that everyone knows how to use a web browser. Online support and extensive knowledge base address user questions.
Shining Light Technologies provides a cloud computing software application that manages church data, including directory, groups and attendance, outreach, giving, missions, and resources.