Do I Need A Centralised System?


You have been running your business / charity / CIC on mostly free software and are getting by, so do you really need to invest in a "centralised system"?


Nb: centralised system in this context means a CRM or suite like Office 365 or G-Suite


Does this sound like you?

We run a small charity / business which has organically grown in size to 15 (or more) people. Staff / volunteers all work remotely, use their own computers, and email addresses, to do their work and send us data about our clients. We are worried about compliance with GDPR, and what we can do when we don't own the computers.

I have heard this sort of story several times recently, and I understand where it's coming from. When I started my first business I used every free tool under the sun, and my data was here there and everywhere. In those days data security was barely a consideration (and ransomware wasn't invented yet), I just needed to do what I needed to do, and found a way I could do it for free. Since then, having spent many years in growing businesses, and building technology companies a) I take data security very seriously and b) I know how to do it properly, nearly for free.


Reasons to have a centralised system

Data Integrity (single source of truth) - Centralised systems allow you to gain control over the communications and data of your company. Have one place for all people in the organisation to look for data (like marketing documents, financials etc.). And most importantly YOU control it i.e. you are able to kick people out of the system, restrict access to certain files/folders, and track every change and every movement that staff/volunteers make. From acessing a folder to deleting an email. 

Regulatory ease - just as above no matter what device used volunteers or staff can log into your centralised system, which you control, to do their work. this means you have ultimate control over your email and data. Many systems come with additional security like 2 Factor Authentication making compliance easier for you. These systems will often be GDPR ready too, so you can trust that your data is being stored safely. 

Ease of training - when you on-board new people you have a single system to train them on making the process easier.

Support - anyone worth their salt will be able to support the system they put in for you, and having just one system to deal with is much easier than having many, so expect lower support costs.

Scalability - most centralised systems are able to scale with your organisation, both up and down.

Recovery - with systems like Office 365 recovery from an unforseen event is quick and pretty much free to do. If you lose your laptop, okay you have to buy another, but as soon as you have it you can get straight back on with working.


Are there any disadvantages?

One size fits all - potentially this is true, so you may find there are a lot of extra features you don't need, and you will have to learn to work within the system parameters...though working in a way designed by the experts isn't necessarially a bad thing.

Costly to implement - actually not always true, Office 365 setup can be done for around £100, or nothing if you are technically minded.

Data loss - this is always a concern. However, if Microsofts data centre in Ireland and it's multiple co-located "backup" data centres were to go down I would already be wearing my bug-out jacket and trousers and would be halfway to Scotland!  That's not to say you shouldn't back your data up that is stored in any system, you should, but the likehood of a company like Microsoft or Google loosing your data is pretty remote.



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