Patrick Callihan is the executive director at both NPower Pennsylvania and, two charitable organizations that provide technology and cloud services to nonprofits.

First, if you have not been exposed to Microsoft's Office 365 product or to their SharePoint solution, let me take just a moment to provide some background.

What Are Office 365 and SharePoint?

Office 365 is a relatively new offering from Microsoft. They have taken the most widely used office and collaboration tools and placed them in the cloud. This includes email, shared calendaring, the Office suite (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote), file sharing, and web conferencing. All of these applications are hosted with no servers on your site.

Some of the plans that you can choose also include SharePoint. SharePoint is a powerful alternative to traditional shared folders. It also includes collaboration and project management tools to help your organization work efficiently, effectively, and remotely. There is a hosted or cloud version of SharePoint and a locally-installed server version of SharePoint. For the purposes of this piece, we'll talk about the cloud option.

(Editor's Note: Eligible nonprofits and libraries can request donated locally-installed SharePoint Server 2010 Enterprise Edition and user CALs through TechSoup, but know that the on-site setup and maintenance may require IT staff or hired tech consultants.)

Cloud Hosted Calendars, Email, and Files

Now that you have some background, let's get geeky for a minute. Most of the smaller nonprofits we work with have an average of 80 gigabytes of data in shared folders. These shared folders are typically hosted on a server in their office along side email and shared calendars (Microsoft Exchange).

We have been advocating for nonprofits to move to Office 365 for email and shared calendars but have been somewhat hesitant about moving their shared files to SharePoint. SharePoint has been too expensive for most organizations to use as a primary shared file solution.

Email, on the other hand, has been inexpensive — for a couple of dollars a month per mailbox, a small nonprofit will never have to worry about their email again. That is a pretty powerful statement.

Disruptive Changes in Cloud Storage Pricing

We run our nonprofit on Office 365 and I sleep better at night knowing our server will not crash, we are backed up, and we have access from anywhere at any time from any device. On the other hand, SharePoint storage was prohibitively expensive. At $2.50 a month most of our nonprofits would need to pay $200 per month to replace their file server.

That just changed. Microsoft dropped the price on SharePoint cloud storage to $.20 per gigabyte. To say that is significant would be an understatement. Now that same shared folder costs about $16 a month to manage on SharePoint. Just like email, it is a better platform than most small nonprofits would ever be able to afford with a server onsite.

This technology is disruptive. It changes everything – for the better. It means that small nonprofits should not invest in servers for email and share folders. Servers cost thousands of dollars to purchase, install, and maintain. For most nonprofits their server is also the basis for a single point of failure model.

Because Microsoft deeply discounts their Office 365 services to nonprofits, the value proposition is too powerful to ignore. For a few dollars a month a nonprofit can host their email in Microsoft data centers and take the worry and cost of maintenance and crashes off the table.

Before upgrading your server or upgrading your Exchange software, take a look at Microsoft Office 365. One of the services we offer at npCloud are migrated to Office 365. We hope you consider us when making the move, but at the very least consider the technology.

Now, get back to saving the world.

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