• 3 min read

Use the Cloud to help people in need

In this holiday time, peoples’ thoughts turn to helping those less fortunate. If you’re a charity, helping people is your business all year round, and every dollar spent on computing infrastructure…

In this holiday time, peoples’ thoughts turn to helping those less fortunate. If you’re a charity, helping people is your business all year round, and every dollar spent on computing infrastructure is a dollar taken away from those you’re trying to help. That’s why, increasingly, charities and nonprofits are turning away from expensive on-premises solutions and moving to the cloud.

Take Minnesota-based RREAL, the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance, which helps low-income households receive the advantages of solar power.

As their business grew, RREAL needed ways to track new customers, to manage their manufacturing, and to collaborate without incurring the costs and overhead of expensive infrastructure. Azure-based Dynamics GP and Dynamics CRM along with Office 365 met these needs. And with Dynamics’ Business Analyzer they track KPI’s, and with PowerBI they have a have real-time dashboard.

The result: they have cut installation time by over 50 percent: more people get cheap, renewable power faster.

World Animal Protection is a global organization focusing on animal welfare. Like all charities, transparency is a key goal: donors need to know how their contributions are being used. And, because their teams can be anywhere in the world, their applications must be accessible globally. Finally, as with all nonprofits, keeping administrative costs down is essential.

With infrastructure and applications managed by the Microsoft Cloud, workers can devote more time to their core mission: improving the lot of the world’s animals. Their technology that best suited their needs: Office 365, Dynamics and Azure.

The mission of UK-based JustGiving is to “ensure no great cause goes unfunded.” With a large social network of donors, they found that an individual’s “social graph” is a good predictor of that person’s next donation: if your friends care about something, you probably do too.

But in considering a technology solution, the size of this dataset — with 361 million connections – was daunting. Enter HDInsight, Microsoft Azure’s big data service, based on Hadoop, Spark, and R. A relational database – based on rows and columns – was inappropriate for a scenario where one person could link to any number of others. Instead, their solution, called GiveGraph™, integrated Facebook’s OpenGraph technology with HDInsight to provide a robust, massively scalable database of people’s relationships to other people — and to their causes.

I hope that you too will consider giving during this holiday season. We’re proud that it’s an important part of our corporate culture: Since our giving program began, Microsoft employees have donated over $1 billion to worthy causes, and just this year our Philanthropies group announced a program to provide Azure, Office 365, Dynamics and other products free to eligible organizations.

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Of course, the benefits reaped by non-profits and charitable organizations from the cloud – reduced costs, increased agility, new kinds of innovative solutions, global reach – are the same ones any enterprise will reap by using the cloud.

As I mentioned in my last post, we see the cloud providing nearly limitless opportunities to improve our lives; the cloud should benefit everyone. We believe governments and enterprises, along with vendors like ourselves, should work together to ensure that, jointly, the cloud we all build is trusted, responsible and inclusive.

Our ebook, A Cloud for Global Good, provides an initial set of 78 policy recommendations in 15 categories for governments and regulatory bodies to consider. The topic areas are thought-provoking, and far from simple: ranging from how we all should about personal privacy to government access to data, to cross-border data flows to supporting digital literacy around the world. As I said last time, we don’t have all the answers; we don’t even have all the questions. However, if with A Cloud for Global Good we can start a conversation, we’ll have achieved something.

So: let us know what you think!