Into the Cloud: Upwardly Global

  • 30 staff
  • 2.75M budget

Founded in 2000, Upwardly Global helps skilled immigrants and refugees find work in the United States. In addition to helping constituents better market themselves and their skills, the organization helps employers find good people for hard-to-fill job openings. Its 30 staff members are spread among three separate offices.

Like many organizations, technology decisions at Upwardly Global are guided more by budgetary constraints than a preference or agenda for either hosted or installed software. Decisions are usually motivated by proven results.

Theres an appreciation for copying what other people find to be working, said Aaron Winters, Manager of Strategic Relations. But in addition to replicating the success of other organizations, Upwardly Global tends to look inward for solutions that dont require purchasing new technology.

Is there a cheap way to leverage something that already exists? he asked.

Previously, each office worked autonomously with little interaction or cooperation. However, the organization noticed a growing interest in long-distance collaboration among staff using Windows Workgroups to share files between locations.

Previously, each office worked autonomously with little interaction or cooperation. However, the organization noticed a growing interest in long-distance collaboration among staff using Windows Workgroups to share files between locations.

We were seeing more cross-office teams forming, and that was what started us looking at alternatives, Aaron said. Upwardly Global has since replaced Windows Workgroups with Egnyte, a Cloud-based file server. Egnyte allows more people to access the server at one time, facilitating collaboration.

While mostly pleased with the solution, Aaron said some concerns remain, from various bugs and usability issues like password management to a more serious Egnyte synchronization issue that created problems locating files and folderssome files were even lost.

Recently, the organization replaced most of its phone lines with a single PBX hosted offsite at a co-location facilitypreviously, only the larger offices had local phone switches. Now the entire network feels more unified.

We would have loved to just host [the PBX] at our offices, but there was concern about the offices moving, Aaron said. We didnt want to have to reinstall the servers every time we moved.

The opportunity was created when one office was forced to move locations, but in retrospect, he said, the organization may have rushed into the decision to host the PBX and chosen a vendor hastily. It feels like a one-person shop, with maybe some contractors, so were concerned about his redundancy, Aaron said.

There have also been concerns about the amount of server downtime with the service, but one of the organizations offices still uses a traditional phone system that is down more frequently, and the actual downtime of the hosted PBX when there is a problem is often minimal and back up within minutes after an outage.

We had to spend a lot of money up front on a [hosted] PBX, and I cant see the PBX ever really paying for itself, Aaron said. If we had to do it over, we would have gone with a fully hosted solution.

Editor’s note: This case study is part of an NTEN research series on Nonprofit Infrastructure in the Cloud, which was conducted in May, 2012, and prepared by Idealware. You canread the overview article for this study, and find the other case studies in this seriesin our case-study section.

Chris Bernard