Tag Archives: 10ntc

Tech Tips From The Nonprofit Technology Conference

This article was first published on the Idealware Blog in May of 2010.

Last month, I reported on the first annual Tech Track, a series of sessions presented at the April, 2010 Nonprofit Technology Conference. In that post I listed the topics covered in the five session track. Today I want to discuss some of the answers that the group came up with.

Session 1: Working Without a Wire

This session covered wireless technologies, from cell phones to laptops. Some conclusions:

The state of wireless is still not 100%, but it’s better than it was last year and it’s still improving Major metropolitan areas are well covered; remote areas (like Wyoming) are not. There are alternatives, such as Satellite, but that still requires that your location be in unobstructed satellite range. All in all, we can’t assume that wireless access is a given, and the challenge is more about managing staff expectations than installing all of the wireless by ourselves. It will get there.
Wireless security options are improving. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), remote access solutions (such as Citrix, VNC andTerminal Services) are being provided for more devices and platforms, and the major smartphone companies are supporting enterprise features like remote device wipes.
Policy-wise, more orgs are moving to a module where staff buy their own smartphones and the companies reimburse a portion of the bill to cover business use. Some companies set strict password policies for accessing office content; others don’t.

Session 2: Proper Plumbing

This session was pitched as covering virtualization and other server room technologies, but when we quizzed the participants, virtualization was at the top of their list, so that’s what we focused on.

We established that virtualizing servers is a recommended practice. If you have a consultant recommending it and you don’t trust their recommendation, find another consultant and have them virtualize your systems, because the recommendation is a good one, but it’s a problem that you don’t trust your consultant!
The benefits of virtualization are numerous — reduced budgets, reduced carbon footprints, instant testing environments, 24/7 availability (if you can upgrade a copy of a server and then switch it back live, an advanced virtualization function).
There’s no need to rush it — it’s easier on the budget and the staff, as well as the environment, to replace standalone servers with virtualized ones as the hardware fails.
On the planning side, bigger networks do better by moving all of their data to a Storage Area Network (SAN) before virtualizing. This allows for even more flexibility and reduced costs, as servers are strictly operating systems with software and data is stored on fast, redundant disk arrays that can be accessed by any server, virtual or otherwise.

Session 3: Earth to Cloud

The cloud computing session focused a lot on comparisons. While the general concern is that hosting data with a third party is risky, is it any more risky than hosting it on our own systems? Which approach is more expensive? Which affords the most freedom to work with our data and integrate systems? How do we manage disaster recovery and business continuity in each scenario?

Security – Everyone is hackable, and Google and Salesforce have a lot more expertise in securing data systems than we do. So, from a “is your data safe?” perspective, it’s at least a wash. But if you have sensitive client data that needs to be protected from subpoenas, as well as or more than hackers, than you might be safer hosting your own systems.
Cost – We had no final answers; it will vary from vendor to vendor. But the cost calculation needs to figure in more than dollars spent — staff time managing systems is another big expense of technology.
Integration and Data Management – Systems don’t have to be in the same room to be integrated; they have to have robustAPIs. And internal systems can be just as locked as external if your contract with the vendor doesn’t give you full access and control over your data. This, again, was a wash.
Risk Management – There’s a definite risk involved if your outsourced host goes out of business. But there are advantages to being hosted, as many providers offer multiply-redundant systems. Google, in particular, writes every save on a Google Doc or GMail to two separate server farms on two different continents.
It all boils down to assessing the maturity of the vendors and negotiating contracts carefully, to cover all of the risks. Don’t sign up with the guy who hosts his servers from his basement; and have a detailed continuity plan in place should the vendor close up shop.
 If you’re a small org (15 staff or less), it’s almost a no-brainer that it will be more cost-effective and safer to host your email and data in the cloud, as opposed to running our own complex CRMs and Exchange servers. If you’re a large org, it might be much more complex, as larger enterprise apps sometimes depend on that Exchange server being in place. But, all in all, Cloud computing is a viable option that might be a good fit for you — check it out, thoroughly.

I’ll finish this thread up with one more post on budgeting and change management in the next few weeks.

Putting The Tech Back In Nonprofit Technology

This post was first published on the Idealware Blog in April of 2014.

We’re all back from the Nonprofit Technology Conference, where nine of the ten Idealware bloggers congregated, along with some 1,440 of our peers in the nptech community. What a gas! NTC, as we call the conference, is what high school would have been like if everyone had been a member of the popular clique. The combination of peer education and celebration of our common interest in saving the world with heart and technology make for an exuberant occasion. And I can’t say enough about the awe and appreciation I have for Holly, Anna, Annaliese, Brett, Sarah and Karl, and the amazing event that they recreate year after year for us.

But, enough gushing. One of my (many) rants regards my concern that, although the biggest group of people that we call “nptechies” are the ones who support technology in their organizations, our biggest nptech conferences focus heavily on social media and the web (NTC, Netsquared, and now SXSW). It is true that the advent of social media and the interactive web is spawning a revolution in the way that we do advocacy and fundraising. But there is no less of a revolution in our server rooms, where virtualization, cloud computing and wireless devices are changing the entire way that we manage and deliver applications.

Our System Administrators, Support Specialists and Accidental Techies need to share in the peer support that can inform their efforts and help them feel more connected, both to their missions and the broader community. This year, in deference to a throat getting hoarse from ranting, I took a first stab at addressing this gap.

The Tech Track

The tech track was conceived as a six session “mini” track; five of the proposed sessions made the cut. The topics went from the basics to the broad overview:

  • Tech Track 1: Working Without a Wire (But With a Net): Dealing with Wireless Networks, Laptops, and Cell Phones
  • Tech Track 2: Proper Plumbing: Virtualization and Networking Technologies
  • Tech Track 3: Earth to Cloud: When, Why and How to Outsource Applications
  • Tech Track 4: Budget vs Benefits: Providing Top Class Technology in Constrained Resource Environments
  • Tech Track 5: Articulating Tech: How to Win Friends and Influence Luddites.

Joining me in these sessions were fellow blogger Johanna Bates of OpenIssue, Matt Eshleman of CITIDC, Tracy Kronzak of Applied Research Center, John Merritt of the San Diego YMCA, Michelle Murrain of OpenIssue, Michael Sola of National Wildlife Federation and Thomas Taylor of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.

Subject Matter

Instead of doing the usual Powerpoint presentations and talking to the crowd, we pulled the chairs into circles for these sessions and put the session agenda up for grabs, asking each group what issues, related to the session topic, were foremost in their minds. The conversation was rich, and served as a healthy catalogue of the challenges facing nonprofit technology practitioners. Some highlights:

  • Supporting remote laptop use in a western state with very little wireless bandwidth available
  • Securing our networks while making network data accessible on mobile devices
  • Supporting use of and crafting fair policies to address the boom in mobile devices
  • Understanding the risks and benefits of virtualizing servers and desktops
  • Knowing how and when to virtualize, and how Storage Area Networks fit in the big picture
  • Weighing the risk of cloud computing, which also entails weighing the risks of our non-cloud networks
  • Knowing what to ask a cloud provider to insure that data is safe, even in the case of the provider going out of business
  • Assessing the cost of owned vs service-provided applications
  • Assessing the readiness of Cloud Computing, and moving large, complex server rooms to the cloud
  • Chickens and eggs: what to do when IT is asked to budget, but is not part of the planning process prior?
  • What strategies can be applied to provide good technology with limited budgets?
  • What tools and resources are available to help with the budgeting process?
  • How can we engage our users when we roll out new technology?
  • How do we get them to attend training?

Next week, I’ll follow this up with some of the answers we came up with for these questions.

Where I’ll Be At The 10 NTC

NTEN LogoIt’s T-9 days to the 2010 Nonprofit Technology Conference, put on with style and aplomb by the amazing crew at NTEN, all of whom I’m proud to call my friends and associates in the scheme to make nonprofits start using technology strategically.  This year we’re gathering at the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

I fly in Wednesday  night, where I’m planning to shamefully miss (again) the annual pre-Day of Service dinner and eat with friends at Ted’s Montana Grill. After that, I’m hosting what looks like an annual brewpub gathering at the Porter Beer Bar — come and join us!

On Thursday, I’ll start the day at the annual Day of Service, where I’ll be lending what expertise I have to the Feminist Women’s Health Center.  Length of consult pending, I’ll then pop over to the unconference on open data standards, hosted by Netsquared.  The easiest way to find me on Wednesday, though, will be to head over to the Science Fair and locate booth 63, where I’ll be manning the Idealware table, and talking about our new web site, the revitalized blog, and our first book, among other things.

For the main conference on Friday and Saturday, I’m leading a five session sub-track that we’ve named the Tech Track.  This is in service of my standard rant about our nonprofit community’s need to support the front-line tech staff — accidental or otherwise — who struggle through the hassles of crashed servers, mis-routed routers, cloud versus closet computing, so-small-you-can’t-see-em budgets, and the challenge of communicating technology strategy to peers and higher-ups who don’t consider technology as much more than fancy typewriters.

The Tech Track operates on a few principle tenets:

  1. The best NTEN Sessions are driven by peer discussion, not endless presentations.
  2. The outcome of this track should be the creation of an ongoing nptech community, in addition to whatever wisdom is shared during the conference.
  3. Every time a PowerPoint Presentation is created, a kitten dies.

Tag for the track is #ntctech. Joining me are Johanna Bates, Matt Eschelman, Tracy Kronzak, John Merritt,  Michelle Murrain, Michael Sola, and Thomas Taylor. Note that John or Matt will be subbing for Tracy on Session one.

I leave town on Sunday morning, so let me know if you’re looking to hang out Saturday night.  If you’re looking to hook up, and this isn’t enough info to find me, hop on the Twitter and dial me up at @peterscampbell there.

5 Questions: How To Win Friends And Influence Luddites

This Interview was conducted by Holly Ross and the article was first published on the NTEN Blog in February of 2010.

Ed. Note: As we prepare for the 2010 Nonprofit Technology Conference, we wanted share a wee bit of the wisdom our speakers will be serving up, so as not to overwhelm you when you get to Atlanta. We’re asking them all to share their answers to five very important questions.

Speaker: Peter Campbell, Earthjustice

Session: The Tech Track

1. What’s the most important trend in nonprofit technology for 2010?

It’s cloud computing, hands down.  I know, I know: Social media! Online fundraising! All well and good, but those are evolutionary trends, cloud computing is a revolutionary trend. As it matures, it will remove the frustrating burden of managing servers and applications from our under-resourced organizations and allow IT to focus on tying systems to strategy, not just keeping the six year old systems alive. That’s a really big deal.

2. Why do you think your session topic is important for nonprofits to address

Because my sessions (the five part tech track) are geared toward helping nptechies — accidental and otherwise — both manage what they’re stuck with today and prepare for the new computing paradigm, which is virtual, not physical.  And, by prepare, I mean more than just learning about the trends and strategies.  The ambitious goal of the tech track is to build a peer community that will help the sector move their IT forward, as a team.

3. What’s the one thing you want attendees to remember from your session?

That they are not alone. You said one thing, but I’ll cheat and add: this new stuff isn’t overwhelming — a lot of it is enabling.

4. Which Muppet do you most identify with and why?

I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that it might incriminate me. Did you know that, when I was a kid, I had a dog named Oscar?

5. Where can people follow you online (twitter, blog, etc.)?

 

The NPTech Lineup

NPTech LogosIt’s time for another quick note on upcoming events and happenings in my nonprofit-focused life. These are spare on details, but I’ll be making noise as they finalize.

First, you’re looking at the newest Idealware board member. There’s still some paperwork to fill out, but this is a done enough deal that it’s worth mentioning here. I join at an exciting time, with our first book on the way; a new website about to be unleashed,  and the successful rollout of the Idealware Research Fund (which met it’s initial goal!).

Coming up in February is the Green IT Consortium/NTEN virtual conference on Greening your Technology. Matt Eshleman of CITIDC and I will be reprising the Server Virtualization session that we did at NTC last year. Mark down the date of February 10th, and look for details very soon, including after-conference get-togethers in SF and DC..

Also in February, but as yet not fully scheduled, I’ll be participating on an NTEN-sponsored panel with representatives of Guidestar, Charity Navigator, and the NPTech/Philanthropy community to discuss the upcoming changes in how these organizations assess nonprofits. I’ve been blogging about this potentially dramatic change in the way NPOs are assessed, along with the associated concerns, here and here.

April brings the big event: NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference, 4/8 to 10, in Atlanta, Georgia this year.  I have a lot going on — I’m assembling a group of NTEN’s more technical presenters to lead the technology track, five sessions that will focus on the less trendy, but eternally critical tasks that nonprofit techs face daily: keeping the servers running (and virtualizing them); installing wireless; supporting computer use and planning and purchasing with little budget.  Our hope is that this track will not only impart a lot of useful information, but also serve as the introduction of a peer community for the front line NP techs. And I’ll be flying down early enough to participate in Day of Service and this year’s experimental unconference, where we’ll, among many other things, discuss how we standardize on shared outcome measurements and what that might look like.

The biggest challenge? Doing all this without breaking the stride on my work at Earthjustice, where I’m busy developing a case management system, installing email archiving software, deploying videoconferencing systems and prepping for Office 2007 and Document Management roll-outs, among other things; blogging weekly for the aforementioned Idealware; and spending as much quality time as I can get with my wonderful wife and kid. If you have any extra hours in the day to donate, send them here!

My Full NPTech Dance Card

Congress can take a vote and change the time that the sun goes down.  So why can’t they give me the 10 additional hours in each day that I keep lobbying for?

In addition to my fulfilling work at Earthjustice and the quality time at home with my lovely wife and Lego-obsessed 10 year old, here are some of the things that are keeping me busy that might interest you as well:

  • Blogging weekly at Idealware, as usual. This is one of those rare entries that shows up here at Techcafeteria, but not there.  And I’m joined at Idealware by a great group of fellow bloggers, so, if you only read me here, you might get more out of reading me there.
  • I recently joined the GreenIT Consortium, a group of nonprofit professionals committed to spreading environmental technology practices throughout our sector.  I blog about this topic at Earthjustice.  Planned (but no dates set) is a webinar on Server Virtualization; technology that can reduce electrical use dramatically while making networks more manageable.  This will be similar to the session I did at the Nonprofit Technology Conference in April, and I’ll be joined again by Matt Eshleman of CITIDC. I’m also helping Ann Yoders, a consultant at Informatics Studio, with an article on green technology for Idealware.
  • On September 9th, I’ll be recording another episode of Blackbaud‘s Baudcast with other friends, including Holly Ross of NTEN. The topic this time is technology management, a subject I don’t ever shut up about.
  • Saving the big ones for last, NTEN’s first Online Conference is themed around the book, Managing Technology To Meet Your Mission. This one takes place September 16th and 17th, and I’ll be leading the discussion on my chapter: How to Decide: Planning and Prioritizing.
  • In early 2010, Aspiration will bring my pitch to life when we hold a two day conference that is truly on nonprofit technology, geared towards those of us who manage and support it. I’ve been known to rant about the fact that the big nptech shindigs — NTEN’s NTC and Techsoup’s Netsquared — focus heavily on social media and web technologies, with few sessions geared toward the day to day work that most nptechs are immersed in.  The goal of the event is to not only share knowledge, but also to build the community.  With so many nptech staff bred in the “accidental” vein, we think that fostering mentoring and community for this crowd is a no-brainer.
  • Further out, at the 2010 Nonprofit Technology Conference, I’ll be putting together a similar tech-focused sub-track.  Since the Aspiration event will be local (in the SF Bay), this will be a chance to take what we learn and make it global.
  • My nptech friends will forgive me for declaring my extra-curricular dance card otherwise closed — this is enough work to drop on top of my full-time commitments!