If you are the Executive Director of a nonprofit or running a small business this blog post will help change your business. The message is so controversial that when you show it to your IT Manager the first thing they are going to do is attack it like a raccoon that has been cornered after stealing hot dogs out of your ice chest. But before tempers flare and emotions run high allow me to give you a small disclaimer. I promise I won't be that guy that just tells you want is wrong with your organization and then walks away. There is a solution to this problem and it is my attempt to outline it here. However, even if I fail then at least I have started the conversation and that is all I can hope to do. 
 
The Old Way
For years and years if you worked for any organization that was medium size there were two types of IT guys. You had the Telco guy and the IT guy. The telco guy was the one you called when your phone was broken and the IT guy was the one you called when inevitably you hosed your computer and you needed someone to right your wrong. Well ladies and gentlemen; I am here to officially tell you that those days are over. 
 
 

The two functions that used to be represented by these two traditional headcount roles can for most small companies be done by one person or a smaller group of people. That's right. And when your IT guy tells you that it can't be they are only half telling you the truth. The fact of the matter is that your IT staff may truthfully be too busy taking care of other systems and crashed servers. What they are not telling you is that we live in an age where they don't have to anymore; and this scares the CRAP out of them. 

Here are some signs that your IT is married to the old ways and have not yet joined the low cost technology revolution.

1. Server Room - If you have a server room full of servers you are in big trouble. The Hosting and Cloud Hosting industry is evolving so fast that every minute there is a new innovation that makes it less optimal for you to be paying for servers or to even colocate servers. Why are you paying to buy servers, buy extra hard drives when the old ones break, paying for routers and firewalls that few people even know how to operate? The main objection that most IT people use is the "cloud is not safe" line. Click here to read how serious Amazon takes the security of their cloud.
 
2. Email Server - If you have a mail server in general you are in even more trouble. Email is now to a point where you absolutely should not be doing this in-house. The cost to keep it in-house include mail licensing, mail hardware, and paying a guy that knows how to configure it all. There are scores of companies that will help you outsource that and they run for about $5/mailbox. See our blog post about outsourcing your email.
 
3. Backups & Storage - If you have a big server that you are backing everything up to that is indeed a red flag. These mammoth servers cost tens of thousands of dollars. Also, anyone that is in the backup business will tell you that when you are backing up data......hard drives are going to fail. When that happens your cost just keep going up and up. Click here to see how cheap a cloud vendor like Mozy charges for backing up 500TB of data. It's $189/month.

I used to see this happen all the time when I was an Account Manager working at Rackspace. It was so fascinating because it seemed like I was constantly in mortal combat with the IT managers of all the accounts that we hosted. It was almost as if they were sitting on the other side of the phone just waiting for something to happen to their servers. First chance they got it was blood in the water. 

"Rackspace messed it up again. This is why we should be hosting those servers inhouse. Those guys don't know what they are doing!"

The only voice of reason it seemed like was the one role that I think nonprofits are weak in: the CFO. In the business world a good CFO brought order to the equation because he was constantly trying to cut costs. His number one goal was to getting everything cheaper and no one knew better than the CFO how much you saved by outsourcing your IT functions to places like Rackspace and the Cloud. 

In the nonprofit world I feel like there is a gap where the CFO should be. Often times it's a kindly old board member that is doing this work on the side but also has to fulfill his board obligations of raising money. In between all the fund raising strategy things fall through the cracks; things like addressing the IT roadmap. 
 
 
The Future
Finally, we get to the silver lining of this entire subject. The main reason your IT staff should not be worried is because he or she is the most qualified person in your office to help transition you to this new suite of online tools! The IT person is so concerned with getting outsourced and fired that they have forgotten that someone needs to help organizations manage all these online tools. Who is more qualified to do it than your IT person!
 

 

These functions are not going away nor will they ever. There will always be the need for someone to configure the servers that host your site. There should be someone that understands what your business requirements are regarding email and storage backups. The new role of the IT Manager should look something like this:

1. Evaluating and recommending which current systems should be outsourced to the cloud

2. Creating and maintaing a solid process for adding and changing content to your company website once moved to the cloud (using platforms like wordpress)
 
3. Creating and maintaining the email strategy for your company (someone needs to maintain email accounts, reset passwords, etc)


4. Recommending new tools that will help companies streamline processes (replace that nasty excel spreadsheet with SalesForce or doing your book-keeping online with Freshbooks)


The list obviously does not end here but I think you are starting to get the picture. Everyday someone out there is creating an application that will make your business run better, faster, and cheaper. Harness the knowledge of your IT staff and go find these tools. 
 
I will close by saying this: IT people of the world, there is no need to live in fear. The truth is, we need you and we need you more than ever. Embrace the power of the new and use it to make you look like the hero. March into your boss's office and tell them you are designing an IT strategy that will save the company thousands of dollars. Then you will be what Seth Godin so eloquently refers to in one of his books............... a LinchPin