Microsoft have made Office365, the online version of Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other tools available as a donation to eligible not-for-profit organisations. Visit www.microsoft.com/about/corporatecitizenship/en-us/office365-for-nonprofits/ for full details including eligibility criteria.
Google also offer several of their premium products free for non-profit organisations, including Google Apps and YouTube. Google Apps includes web-based email, calendar, spreadsheets, documents and online file storage that can be accessed from anywhere through an internet connection.
For a decentralised organisation, free online storage such as that offered by Dropbox and Google Drive can be a real boon. Documents are securely stored, can be accessed from anywhere, and worked on collaboratively without creating multiple versions. Gone is the need to share or re-locate documents by emailing them as attachments or saving them to memory sticks.
The next step up is to have your software online as well. This is what Office365 and Google Apps provides. You do not need any programs on your computer apart from an internet browser, such as Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox. Unlike locally installed software, online programs are updated automatically so you are always using the latest version.
Another cost-saving aspect is hardware: if your software is online (“in the cloud”) your computer is not running multiple programs locally and doesn’t need much processing power. So a basic, even old, computer or laptop is sufficient. Other low-cost devices, such as tablets or Chromebooks, also become an option as cloud software can be accessed on any application-based device with a connection to the internet.