This is probably the best way to start mind mapping the topic of cloud computing. There are several ways to describe the general term 'cloud computing'.
Unless you have specific reasons to stay away from specific or all forms of cloud computing (such as privacy, laws, regulations etc), there are truly many reasons why organizations should consider researching cloud computing. Here are some reasons why non-profits should care about cloud computing.
money, Little to no upfront cost, Measurable cost savings over time, Quick start and try before you buy
environment, Reduction in energy consumption and wasteful consumption
mission, focus on how the solution will help you further your mission
solving problems, Not adapting to solutions
Scale up and down, Rapid expansion only as needed
adjust your IT expenditures, no longer have to build for the future, or be constrained by decisions made or contracts signed in the past
pick the functionality that you want
Integrate with other applications
if needs change, switch to another solution
Open Standards, Internet standards and web services allow you to connect services to each other.
Unlimited storage at a fraction of the cost of a traditional on-premise server
No IT Staff required
Many providers hosting your data in the cloud are much more secure than your personal computer
No worries -- everything happens behind the scenes automatically
New features appear automatically
You are always using the latest version
Improvements are made constantly, and your nonprofit stands to benefit from automatic enhancements
broader set of users who are all contributing to the company's R&D budget
No infrastructure, If you have access to the Internet, you have access to the cloud.
Eliminate risks of maintaining physical hardware
Provide access to only the resources needed at any given time
Improve organizational efficiency
Simplify collaboration and sharing of content and data
Create hubs and extend platforms
Create transparent knowledge base
The landscape of cloud computing has become vast and often complex for non-IT experts to consider exploring. This is not an exhaustive list or definition rather examples of the types of cloud computing solutions you can hope to find for your organization.
Thin Provisioning, Allocating Storage When Needed Instead of When the Application is Provisioned
File storage and sharing
Shared Data Center
Flex - space
IaaS, Infrastructure as a Service, servers set up and hosted for you, but your team installs, configures and maintains the software applications
PaaS, Platform as a Service, hosted application development environment for those who are building or customizing their own software, Amazon Web Services, Force.com, Facebook, vendors use to build applications for organizations
SaaS, Software as a Service
Web 2.0 Mashups
Management Software Clouds
Analytics Software Clouds
Business, CRM applications, payment systems, Skype, Convio Common Ground, Google Apps, Salesforce.com
Services, Common functionality useful for integration with your applications, Amazon S3, Google Checkout, Google Maps, PayPal
Mix of, Dedicated & Physical, Cloud
Every new technology carries risk and even though there are many benefits of cloud computing, the risks should clearly be understood and mitigated through identification and planning. A vendor or partner can help you figure out the risks if you don't necessarily have IT support in house.
To help your organization consider the cloud computing landscape, here is a guide or roadmap to helping your organization consider evaluation or adoption of cloud computing products and solutions.
Determine what you might need and determine a budget, A CRM solution?, A database?
Be sure you understand your current processes and how the new solution will optimize or impact your processes
A solutions bells and whistles and user's wishlist might be nice but is it affordable within your budget?
Does the solution deliver your critical needs?
Take it for a test drive if available
Invest adequate time in evaluating options
Consider if the solution meets your needs and if there is any negative impact on processes
Research and ask vendors for more information., Does the cloud provider simply enable cloud solutions or provide consulting to help deliver solutions as well?, How will my data be protected such as backups, restoration and a disaster recovery plan?, How easy is it to move or migrate my data and are there additional costs?, Does the provider monitor and support with my cloud service?, What are the terms of the service agreement?, How much will the service cost?
As with many technology solutions, applications available in the cloud can be implemented by your organization or by a partner. To determine which option is best for you, consider the cost of your time, the importance of accountability, and the value of ensuring everything is done right the first time. If you don't have time for trial and error, consider working with an experienced partner who can streamline the process and get you up and running painlessly.