Q. Our IT network is starting to cause our charity lots of problems. Do we need to refresh the whole infrastructure, because the cost looks prohibitive?
A. Organisations are often told that the only way to overcome IT difficulties is to start again from scratch. But this not always sensible or cost-effective. One option to reduce pressure on your network is cloud computing: a system under which services and software are delivered over the internet and are stored on the servers of the provider.
As a first step, consider moving your exchange email - which usually needs the most processing power - to the cloud, and keep major applications, such as accountancy software, hosted locally in the office.
By hosting the mailboxes online you gain greater reliability, with full back-up built in. You can also access email from hand-held devices, internet cafes or home PCs, regardless of the availability of your office's broadband connection.
If you go further, there are several benefits to a purely hosted desktop: no capital expenditure, a reduced need for network maintenance, increased scalability, easily supported remote working and less environmental impact.
For more information, see the Lasa Knowledgebase (search for "cloud") at www.ictknowledgebase.org.uk. It is also worth speaking to appiChar, which is currently offering a free IT health check and strategy session for UK not-for-profit organisations.