If your association is like many others, it may have been several years since you replaced your association management software (AMS). So, when your AMS reaches the end of its support lifecycle, you must make a series of choices as you look for your next technology solution. Fortunately, you have many options; according to Wes Trochlil, founder and technology consultant at Effective Database Management, there are more than 60 association software providers in the market. Unfortunately, this makes it quite difficult to narrow down the list and determine which solution is a fit for your organization. How do you distinguish between solutions that look similar on the surface—and how do you know what differences are going to matter to your association?
Considering SaaS? Moving to the Cloud is an Obvious Choice
A decade ago, cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions were limited, and the cloud was new enough that member-based organizations hesitated to consider running their entire business on a SaaS model. Today, SaaS solutions are the top choice for most organizations. Top cloud service providers such as Salesforce and Microsoft invest billions in continuous research, innovation, and security development, making their cloud-based platforms highly secure (even for regulated industries), cost efficient, and universally accessible. SaaS subscription models also simplify licensing and provide a predictable pricing structure. However, not all cloud solutions are equal. You’ll hear vendors refer to their solutions as cloud based, cloud hosted, true cloud, and more. Let’s take a look at the fundamental differences in these systems.
Where we came from: On-premises AMS
When considering the differences in software delivery models, it’s helpful to understand a key term: tenant.
Traditional and proprietary association management software are hosted on one server—a single tenant—in a single physical location. The association bears the cost and responsibility of purchasing the hardware, hiring a dedicated and knowledgeable IT staff, and managing the system’s security, maintenance, and upgrades.
While this option provides the association with complete control over its data, it proves difficult to remain up to date on the most current technology. To offload the costs, hassle, and potential security risks of on-premises software, associations embraced vendors that provide centralized hosting—and thus take on the responsibility of maintaining the hosting environment
Cloud-hosted: Same software, different location
Associations often don’t have extensive internal IT departments or resources, so many vendors have responded by moving their traditional, proprietary software to a virtual server environment. Cloud hosting relieves associations of many of the burdens of on-site system maintenance; however it does not solve all the challenges that are associated with on-premises software.
Importantly, cloud hosting is still a single-tenant solution. The software and database still must be installed for each instance, and high processing is required for each of those physical locations. Users access the applications through a virtual private network (VPN) or a browser interface, which are dependent on local internet speed and often come with significant lag time.
The single-tenant architecture means that associations are still reliant on expensive and time-consuming upgrades that must be applied separately to every instance of the software. Upgrade rollouts can take weeks or months, require significant downtime, and can result in different users having different software versions—some seriously outdated.
True cloud: A truly new approach
A true-cloud system uses a multi-tenant architecture. Unlike proprietary association management software that’s merely hosted in the cloud, the true-cloud platform model does not require on-site software installations or server rooms. The entire technology solution is in the cloud—and all the processing and operations happen there as well, streamlining the bandwidth required to access and use the software. Users simply connect to applications through any web browser and device.
Leading software providers are building multi-tenant platform applications that are elegantly and seamlessly integrated with the cloud architecture—and with each other.
Because association software is built on top of the platform, it can take advantage of the technology advances and API-based integrations of the platform. This makes true association platforms scalable, easy (and free) to update, and incredibly flexible.
The resulting experience for your organization, your users, and your members is lightyears ahead of what a proprietary AMS can offer.
True-cloud Association Platforms: The Future of Association Management
Regardless of the direction you choose, your association is looking for an association management technology solution that will help you break through the limitations of outdated processes, grow with technological advances, and support innovation.
As you explore your options, ask your selection committee to address key questions such as:
- Does our organization have a knowledgeable IT staff with the time to support, update, and secure an on-premises solution?
- Can we afford the upfront costs and maintenance fees associated with a hosted solution?
- How important are up-to-date features and functionality to my staff and members?
- How much data will we require our new solution to store?
- Does my organization want to pay for every module of a solution or instead have the flexibility to turn on functionality as needed?
- Would my organization benefit most from a true cloud solution or a hosted delivery model?
If a true-cloud association platform is your answer, we can help you take the next step.
With some of the industry’s most experienced association professionals on staff, our consultants bring deep technical knowledge of the top two association platform solutions: Fonteva and Protech. Talk to us about which of these true cloud platforms is best for your organization.