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Managing a Spiritualist Center

Church Management Systems and Making Use of the Cloud
By:Chris Radford

Cloud computing has of late become something of a buzzword amongst technologists, 'music in the cloud', 'cloud hosting', and 'store your documents in the cloud', have all become marketing go-to terms when describing a new product or service.

'The Cloud' though, isn't limited to mulch-nationals, or even specialist technology vendors, it's a set of technologies that can and should benefit every area of business, including churches.

Three Key Benefits for Churches using 'The Cloud'

The most obvious benefits are the removal of scalability issues, the consolidation of data, and the readily available access that the cloud provides, all key issues for churches.

Scalability
Scalability is often an ignored factor for many churches who can struggle to find the middle ground between on one hand, having a single copy of their church database or church management system, and on the other, having a dedicated, in-house server, to allow multiple people to access the data. The cloud is designed to overcome this challenge and allow a reliable middle ground with room to expand going forward.

Consolidation of data
A common solution to the outgrowing of a traditional desktop database is for each staff member to start maintaining their own 'micro-database' in which they keep the details of each person they contact, and over time, build up their own contact list. However it doesn't take long before a change of phone number or address begins to cause problems, as the databases don't sync to any central location and gradually become more and more out of date.

Access
Access is the third key issue many churches face regarding their member database - key staff often work away from the office full-time or for part days and it's not uncommon for them to need contact details whilst away from the office. Moving to the cloud allows access from unlimited locations, removing the need for individual staff to maintain their own 'micro-databases', solving both the issue of out-of-date data and lack of access.

So whilst the cloud solves many common problems faced by churches with church management systems, there are still issues, firstly, moving an entire church database is no small task, but more importantly cloud services are typically billed for on a monthly basis, adding another line-item every month that needs to be covered. Proponents argue however that this is more than made up for in saved admin time, however an expense is an expense, whatever we may write it off as.

Using Cloud Technology for your Church

Although cloud services are ultimately available to anyone, they remain somewhat difficult to setup and manage without a great deal of knowledge, churches therefore need to be prepared to subscribe to an online service, many of which offer an online service allowing churches to utilise the power of the cloud, with attendance databases, children group management and small group tracking, each comes with it's own unique set of features.

Chris works at diffuse, a provider of cloud based applications and the company behind the ChurchApp ( http://churchapp.co.uk ) a Church Management System. He has worked with cloud services for the past four years and has been part-time on church staff for the past two.