Aussie non-profits adopt Office 365 en-masse


news Non-profit Australian organisations such as charities are adopting Microsoft’s Office 365 Software as a Service platform in large numbers, according to non-profit technology enablement group Infoxchange, which has recently helped 20 such organisations shift into Microsoft’s cloud.

In a statement co-released with Microsoft yesterday, Infoxchange said the shift to the cloud had enabled the not-for-profit (NFP) organisations to lower their IT costs, increase productivity and strengthen the communications they had with their partners, stakeholders and donors. The organisations have benefited from special charity pricing for Office 365, which Infoxchange has negotiated with Microsoft and its Australian partner Telstra.

David Spriggs, General Manager, Infoxchange said: “Many organisations in the public, private and charitable sectors have seen that cloud computing has opened new opportunities for them to better achieve their missions and accelerate their impact. We’ve seen NFPs dramatically improve their operations through cloud technology enabling them to do what they do best – positively impact people’s lives – but more effectively, efficiently and at less cost.”

Two such organisations to have shifted into the Microsoft cloud are Brainlink Services, a Victorian organisation which is devoted to helping residents affected by brain condictions, and Leisure Networks, another Victorian group devoted to working in partnership with the community sport and recreation sector to ensure access to recreation and physical activity for all residents.
“Office 365 has empowered our staff members to forget about technology and get on with their jobs,” said Vanessa Marrama, Communications Manager, BrainLink Services. “We don’t rely as much on our in-house IT support because the cloud has proven to be so reliable and user friendly.”

“Office 365 has enabled us to future proof our investment and provide a secure, easily accessible way to bring together our information and communication systems,” added Rob McHenry, Chief Executive Officer of Leisure Networks. “What is important to us is to have an easy to use system and central place for all the information we need when we are working from our main office, at home or somewhere around regional Victoria.”

Some of the key benefits which the NFP organisations are deriving from the shift to Office 365 included access to the platform from home or via mobile devices (with NFP staff often working away from their head office), reliability, manageability and cost aspects of Office 365 (most smaller NFPs do not have a dedicated IT team), the ability to access document management and collaboration tool Sharepoint, often for the first time, and access to data in emergency situations, such as during floods.

In addition, organisations are also benefiting from access to shared calendars and online meetings.

The news isn’t the first time Microsoft has been publicly known to be involved in Australia’s NFP/charity sector over the past year. In March, the company revealed it would give a $10 million grant to the Australian Red Cross to modernise its infrastructure. The group last upgraded its IT systems in 2002 and had been running on outdated infrastructure.

Of course, while the pair do have some altruistic motives, Microsoft and Telstra aren’t involved in this kind of initiative totally out of the goodness of their hearts. In Australia over the past several years, software as a service suites such as Office 365 have had their most success in deployments where organisations often need to provide IT infrastructure to people such as students who need to access such IT resources but may not need the kind of full-on desktop enterprise support which is so standard in large enterprises such as banks and government departments.

The non-profit sector is another example of this kind of deployment. These organisations typically need quite standardised IT infrastructure, they often have a lot of workers who commit part-time hours, work from home, change roles relatively frequently and so on. Because of this, and their lack of resources in general, productivity suites delivered online are going to be a very quick and easy solution for these groups to get access to decent IT infrastructure.

Along the way, Microsoft and Telstra get the chance to entrench a whole sector with their values and working habits; habits that often cross-over into the commercial or public sectors. This is the kind of deep seeding initiative which will ensure Microsoft’s dominance over Australian desktops for decades to come, and which will help drive acceptance of the SaaS model as a valid one in much larger organisations.


  1. This is great and will be a real benefit to the NFPs provided there are no security breaches. It will only take one clients records to turn up where it shouldn’t or unable to be accessed when required and there will be hell to pay for the NFP concerned.

    • I don’t see how it could be less secure than the NFPs running their own systems … apparently the state of IT infrastructure in NFPs is atrocious — and I would bet that includes IT security.

      • Renai this doesn’t resolve those security issues.

        It only adds to them. It also doesn’t reduce costs. It only adds cost.

        The NFPs are still going to have to maintain computers. They will still have offices. They might be able to reduce the number of computers by making staff stay at home, but that is the extent to it (and home computers are more susceptible to the real problem).

        So given they are still going to have computers, and web browsers, they are just as open to viruses as they are now. Except; now on top of their local virus and security threats, they now have the security and vulnerabilities of a cloud based service for document storage.

        IT security is like entropy in physics, the addition of any new servers or systems, (assuming they aren’t totally replacing existing ones) can only *at best* result in no extra risk. In reality, you end up with more risk by adding an additional system. The comments about cost is an interesting one. They would save lots of cost in document storage, backups and maintenance of all of that, but in my experience (maintaining systems for an NFP) the majority of the IT Maintenance budget goes into virus fixes, end user hardware failure, and general PEBKAC faults, NOT into the document storage (and not really into maintenance of office software – beyond pebkac email faults that is).

        Remote access is a genuine bonus not to be sniffed at.

        Basically, don’t ever dismiss “extra risk”.

      • As an IT guy who works mostly with NFPs, I’d say that you’re right. Most small groups simply dont have the resources to put into IT security or infrastructure even it’s something they care about.

        Larger organisations – lets say the equivalent of 30+ full-time people – tend to have a much more solid IT system with pretty decent security. I’ve set up a couple

        (Related to the article itself: I’ve mostly recommended google apps to small NFPs in the past, but the charity pricing brings office 365 to the same level. I haven’t rolled it out to anybody yet but it’s just a matter of time)

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