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Church & Donor Management Software – ChMS

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles

© 2018 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
Ministry Business Services, Inc. President
Reprinted from inSIGHT

Solutions from church and donor management software providers keep improving in their ability to help churches and ministries fulfill their mission! Their features to track and communicate with people, their web and mobile device interfaces, and their powerful database tools make this category of software a big help and a valuable asset for today’s ministries in reaching many with The Gospel and discipling them.

Church Software Historical Perspective
In the mid-1980s the number of these programs had grown to 262! Then some merged, some consolidated, and some went out of business, reducing the number to only 34. In the 1990s the Internet made it so easy for those writing solutions to share them that the number of solutions more than doubled! Our research this year found 53 solutions focusing on the church and ministry market, of which 35 qualified for this article (requirements include active marketing, minimum growth, and active development of their solution).

We always include new providers (those three years old or less) to give them a chance to build some momentum and compete with ‘the big guys’. It also keeps all of the providers ‘on their toes’ as the up-and-comers sometimes develop new technologies that benefit many churches and ministries in new ways.

Why Church Management Software?
The solution providers on the following pages meet the sophisticated and complex needs of churches and ministries. Tracking more than just simple CRM datasets like names, addresses, and phone numbers, many of these also help build community and track traditional and modern family relationships, spiritual gifts, talents, interests, attendance, nursery security, contributions, fundraising campaigns, volunteerism, small groups, and more.

Church and ministry offices can be stressful workplaces because of the many deadlines that must be met by an administrative staff that is typically smaller in number than what would be found in a similar-sized secular business. Church management software, if well written, can be a soothing balm. If it’s powerful, capable, fast, and stable, the ministry team can rely on it to help them get the most possible work done– efficiently and with minimal stress. And if its abilities are broad enough, every ministry in the church or ministry can focus on just one database, increasing synergy and minimizing cost.

Church Management Software Defined
Decades ago Steve Hewitt, then Editor-in-Chief of Christian Computing Magazine (recently re-branded as MinistryTech Magazine), labeled this software category tailored to meet the needs of churches as Church Management Software, or CMS. To help prevent confusion since there are now so many software categories called ‘CMS’, it is now referred to as ChMS. Parachurch ministries need to track similar data, so we invited those solutions into this article too. Following is a well-researched list of the leading ChMS providers at the time of this writing, with each stating at the top of the feature chart whether their focus is church, parachurch, or both.

Not-for-Profit Accounting
Churches and ministries exist in a unique accounting niche that most software (and even most CPAs!) can’t help with. But many ChMS packages can help in this area.One of a ministry’s most vulnerable areas is finance. All too often we hear about churches and ministries that have suffered embezzlement by a trusted team member. One of the best protections in an accounting system is a good audit trail, tracking the detail of every transaction and whose data cannot be altered in any way. For these reasons, some ChMS providers have written their own fully-integrated accounting system.

Some churches and ministries want a ChMS that has a fully-integrated accounting system, and we list the functions they look for in the chart. Others may not care if the ChMS provider has written its own accounting system, and for them it’s good to know that most ChMSes can interface with ‘third-party’ accounting systems such as those in the chart that only provide nonprofit accounting solutions.

Feature Chart
We’ve tried to give you the most comprehensive and quickest format possible of those ChMS database and accounting functions ministry teams request most. We removed features provided by all ChMS providers to help focus on solutions’ distinct feature sets.

The chart lists solutions by the name their providers use to market them rather than by the company name. We include the company name in the section following the chart in which we give information on each provider such as how to reach them, how long they’ve been making their solutions available, how many organizations they currently serve, their support hours, and how often they update their software. We have trusted the software companies; all of the information in this article was provided by them and has not been audited.

The chart uses two symbols:

  • The ” 1 ” symbol indicates features ChMS companies provide directly, and
  • The ” 2 ” symbol indicates needs they meet through an outside (third party) source.

Happy Hunting!
Shop wisely. We recommend doing your due diligence and checking with current users of the software you’re interested in. Ask questions like:

  • Does the software do what was promised?
  • Is their support team capable and available?
  • If you were faced with the same decision today, what would you do differently?

Feel free to contact any of the providers listed.  They would love to help you in your ministry.  Happy hunting!

CLICK CHART IMAGE TO MAGNIFY

chms-chart

 

List of ChMS Providers in Chart

ACS
By ACS Technologies
Phone:  800.736.7425
Email:  solutions@acst.com
Web:  www.acstechnologies.com
Company Founded in 1978
Years Marketing ChMS:  40
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  8000
Number on Team:  400
Support:  9 – 8 M-Th Eastern; 9 – 6 Fri; 24∙7 option
Last Major Release:  11/2017
Updates per Year:  8

FastFund Online
By Araize
Phone:  866.840.7449
Email:  sales@araize.com
Web:  www.araize.com
Company Founded in 1997
Years Marketing ChMS:  21
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1200
Number on Team:  10
Support:  9 – 5 Eastern
Last Major Release:  6/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

Aplos
By Aplos
Phone:  888.274.1316
Email:  sales@aplos.com
Web:  www.aplos.com
Company Founded in 2009
Years Marketing ChMS:  7
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  5400
Number on Team:  44
Support:  8 – 4 Pacific
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

FellowshipOne
By Ministry Brands, a division of Ministry Brands
Phone:  844.459.8525
Email:  Sales@fellowshipone.com
Web:  www.fellowshipone.com
Company Founded in 2004
Years Marketing ChMS:  14
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  2000
Number on Team:  43
Support:  7 – 7 Central; Critical 24∙7
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

Blackbaud Church Management
By Blackbaud
Phone:  800.468.8996
Email:  solutions@blackbaud.com
Web:  www.blackbaud.com
Company Founded in 1981
Years Marketing ChMS:  1
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  10
Number on Team:  500
Support:  8:30 – 8 Eastern; Critical 24∙7
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

FlockBase
By FlockBase Software
Phone:  877.883.5625
Email:  kevin@flockbase.com
Web:  www.flockbase.com
Company Founded in 2007
Years Marketing ChMS:  11
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:
2500
Number on Team:  4
Support:  9 – 5:30 Central
Last Major Release:  1/2018
Updates per Year:  1

Breeze ChMS
By Breeze LLC
Phone:  888.320.6030
Email:  support@breezechms.com
Web:  www.breezechms.com
Company Founded in 2013
Years Marketing ChMS:  5
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  5441
Number on Team:  33
Support:  9 – 6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

Fresh Vine
By Fresh Vine
Phone:  888.708.1905
Email:  contact@freshvine.co
Web:  freshvine.co
Company Founded in 2008
Years Marketing ChMS:  7
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  380
Number on Team:  3
Support:  10 – 5 Central
Last Major Release:  3/2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

CahabaWorks Church Software
By CahabaCreek Software, a division of 2AB
Phone:  205.621.9649
Email:  sales@cahabacreek.com
Web:  www.cahabacreek.com
Company Founded in 1997
Years Marketing ChMS:  10
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1489
Number on Team:  10
Support:  9 – 4 Central M-Th; Email 24∙7
Last Major Release:  12/2017
Updates per Year:  4

IconCMO
By Icon Systems
Phone:  800.596.4266
Email:  sales@iconcmo.com
Web:  www.iconcmo.com
Company Founded in 1992
Years Marketing ChMS:  26
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:
3000
Number on Team:  9
Support:  8 – 5 Central
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

CCIS Shield CMS
By CCIS Church Management Software
Phone:  800.295.7551
Email:  Sales@ccissoftware.com
Web:  www.ccissoftware.com
Company Founded in 1981
Years Marketing ChMS:  38
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  6740
Number on Team:  60
Support:  8 – 5 Eastern
Last Major Release:  3/2018
Updates per Year:  3

Iglesia HOY
By JRSoftware
Phone:  52.1.664.2515478
Email:  informacion@iglesiahoy.com
Web:  www.iglesiahoy.com
Company Founded in 1999
Years Marketing ChMS:  19
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  3260
Number on Team:  6
Support:  8 – 6 Pacific
Last Major Release:  8/2018
Updates per Year:  4

CDM+
By Suran Systems
Phone:  800.891.4236
Email:  sales@cdmplus.com
Web:  www.cdmplus.com
Company Founded in 1987
Years Marketing ChMS:  32
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  6500
Number on Team:  24
Support:  8:30 – 6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  9/2018
Updates per Year:  3

MinistryPlatform
By Think Ministry
Phone:  678.404-2467
Email:  sales@thinkministry.com
Web:  www.ministryplatform.com
Company Founded in 2008
Years Marketing ChMS:  10
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  541
Number on Team:  14
Support:  9 – 6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  6

Church Community Builder
By Church Community Builder
Phone:  719.266.2888
Email:  marketing@churchcommunitybuilder.com
Web:  www.churchcommunitybuilder.com
Company Founded in 1998
Years Marketing ChMS:  18
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  4400
Number on Team:  110
Support:  6 – 6 Mountain
Last Major Release:  8/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

Parish Data System (PDS)
By ACS Technologies
Phone:  800.736.7425
Email:  solutions@acstechnologies.com
Web:  www.acstechnologies.com
Company Founded in 1978
Years Marketing ChMS:  40
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  8000
Number on Team:  395
Support:  9 – 8 M-Th Eastern; 9 – 6 Fri
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  8

Church Windows
By Computer Helper Publishing
Phone:  800.533.5227
Email:  sales@churchwindows.com
Web:  www.churchwindows.com
Company Founded in 1987
Years Marketing ChMS:  31
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  12000
Number on Team:  25
Support:  9 – 6 M-Th Eastern; 9 – 5 Fri
Last Major Release:  8/2018
Updates per Year:  1

ParishSOFT Family Suite
By ParishSOFT, a division of Ministry Brands
Phone:  866.930.4774
Email:  parishsoftsales@parishsoft.com
Web:  www.parishsoft.com
Company Founded in 1998
Years Marketing ChMS:  20
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  11400
Number on Team:  65
Support:  8:30 – 7 Eastern
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

Church360°
By Concordia Technology Solutions, a division of Concordia Publishing House
Phone:  800.325.2399
Email:  softwaresales@cts.cph.org
Web:  www.church360.org
Company Founded in 1869
Years Marketing ChMS:  8
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1250
Number on Team:  25
Support:  7:30 – 5 Central
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

PowerChurch
By PowerChurch Software
Phone:  800.486.1800
Email:  info@powerchurch.com
Web:  www.powerchurch.com
Company Founded in 1984
Years Marketing ChMS:  34
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  38000
Number on Team:  17
Support:  9 – 6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  11/2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

Churchteams
By Churchteams.com
Phone:  817.405.9750
Email:  support@churchteams.com
Web:  churchteams.com
Company Founded in 2001
Years Marketing ChMS:  10
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  850
Number on Team:  8
Support:  8:30 – 5 Central
Last Major Release:  9/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

Realm
By ACS Technologies
Phone:  800.736.7425
Email:  salesteam@acst.com
Web:  www.acstechnologies.com
Company Founded in 1978
Years Marketing ChMS:  5
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  6646
Number on Team:  370
Support:  8 – 8 Eastern
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  26

ChurchTrac Online
By ChurchTrac Software
Phone:  877.704.0222
Email:  support@churchtrac.com
Web:  www.churchtrac.com
Company Founded in 2004
Years Marketing ChMS:  14
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  10200
Number on Team:  7
Support:  8 – 7 Eastern
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  4

Servant Keeper
By Servant PC Resources
Phone:  800.773.7570
Email:  sales@servantpc.com
Web:  www.servantpc.com
Company Founded in 1994
Years Marketing ChMS:  24
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  35000
Number on Team:  30
Support:  9 – 6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  2/2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

COMS and EFA for Windows
By Specialty Software
Phone:  800.568.6350
Email:  sales@SpecialtySoftware.com
Web:  www.specialtysoftware.com
Company Founded in 1984
Years Marketing ChMS:  35
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  6400
Number on Team:  5
Support:  9 – 5 Eastern
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  4

Shelby Arena
By Shelby Systems, a division of Ministry Brands
Phone:  800.877.0222
Email:  sales@shelbyinc.com
Web:  www.shelbysystems.com
Company Founded in 1976
Years Marketing ChMS:  11
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  650
Number on Team:  95
Support:  7 – 6 Central
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  4

Cool Life Ministries
By Cool Life CRM
Phone:  800.988.8850
Email:  sales@coollifecrm.com
Web:  www.coollifecrm.com
Company Founded in 2005
Years Marketing ChMS:  2
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  7
Number on Team:  6
Support:  9 – 5 Eastern; Email 24∙7
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

ShelbyNext
By Shelby Systems, a division of Ministry Brands
Phone:  800.877.0222
Email:  sales@shelbyinc.com
Web:  www.shelbysystems.com
Company Founded in 1976
Years Marketing ChMS:  42
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1600
Number on Team:  95
Support:  7 – 6 Central
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  Monthly

Donarius ChMS
By Nuverb Systems
Phone:  888.479.4636
Email:  question@nuverb.com
Web:  www.donarius.com
Company Founded in 1993
Years Marketing ChMS:  20
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  2360
Number on Team:  1
Support:  9 – 6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  6/2018
Updates per Year:  20

Software4Nonprofits
By Cooperstock Software
Phone:  416.423.7722
Email:  info@software4nonprofits.com
Web:  www.software4nonprofits.com
Company Founded in 1999
Years Marketing ChMS:  19
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  8000
Number on Team:  3
Support:  9 – 9 Eastern
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  6

ELEXIO Community
By ELEXIO, a division of Ministry Brands
Phone:  888.997.9947, x1
Email:  sales@elexio.com
Web:  www.elexio.com
Company Founded in 2000
Years Marketing ChMS:  18
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1200
Number on Team:  50
Support:  9 – 5 Eastern
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  24

Software4Nonprofits
By Cooperstock Software
Phone:  416.423.7722
Email:  info@software4nonprofits.com
Web:  www.software4nonprofits.com
Company Founded in 1999
Years Marketing ChMS:  19
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  8000
Number on Team:  3
Support:  9 – 9 Eastern
Last Major Release:  10/2018
Updates per Year:  6

Faithful Steward
By Diakonia
Phone:  800.325.6642
Email:  info@faithfulsteward.com
Web:  www.church-software.com
Company Founded in 1992
Years Marketing ChMS:  24
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1086
Number on Team:  3
Support:  9 – 5 Central
Last Major Release:  4/2018
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via web

TouchPoint
By TouchPoint Software, a division of Pursuant
Phone:  901.654.7179
Email:  sales@touchpointsoftware.com
Web:  touchpointsoftware.com
Company Founded in 2008
Years Marketing ChMS:  10
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  554
Number on Team:  15
Support:  8 – 5 Central
Last Major Release:  11/2018
Updates per Year:  12

 

Communication— IT’s Key to Success

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles, Uncategorized

© 2018 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from MinistryTech Magazine

How we communicate dramatically affects our success in every aspect of life! We often forget how important that is, and forgetting limits us.

This is especially true in Information Technology (IT). The question becomes, then, How successful do you want to be? And along with that, Do you want to maximize how The Lord can use you?

Biblical Perspective
Paul says in Ephesians 5:15, “Be very careful, then, how you live– not as unwise but as wise.”[1] The phrase to be very careful is translated in some versions as “walking circumspectly”. The word circumspect means to have full awareness of your entire surroundings, like an animal cautiously walking through an open field. That is a good way to communicate, but it’s not easy. It leaves no room for laziness; in fact, it requires a high level of focus! But the wise pay attention!

Getting Practical
Every profession has its acronyms, and in IT we have a lot of them. When IT professionals talk to each other we use those acronyms; when we’re talking with non-professionals, however, using them limits our ability to be understood. It is always the responsibility of the one communicating to do so in a way that their message can be understood by their audience. Is it easy to switch our communication style to match our audience? No! But the wise do so because it is essential.

When I’m talking with a fellow engineer, it’s okay to say something like, “You could speed up that system by swapping the HD with SSD and bumping the RAM.” Simple. But if I’m talking to someone who is not technical, it would be better to say, “You could speed up that computer by replacing the old hard drive with a newer technology, like a solid state storage device and increasing the memory available for processing the amount of data you’re working with.”

Those who can quickly adjust their communication style to match the needs of those they’re communicating with have the greatest chance for success. Who can do that? Anyone who chooses to put out the effort to walk circumspectly. It requires more brain processing power, but that additional power consumption is worth it!

Some who know my story know that before becoming a Christian I was a major drug user. That’s not something I’m proud of, but it is part of my story. One of the drugs I used a lot was LSD. So much so, in fact, that I was losing my ability to communicate! How could I tell? By being observant and interpreting the facial expressions of people I was talking to. Their facial expressions told me they were struggling to understand what I was trying to say. So I started listening to myself while I was talking, and realized that the subject of my sentences was changing so often that I didn’t make sense! No wonder they were struggling to understand me! I concluded that I had work to do if I wanted to be successful.

Humility & Dedication
A good communicator interprets the facial expressions and body language of those they’re talking to and makes real-time adjustments to improve the success of their message. Some are too lazy or don’t care enough to communicate well. Realizing you’re not communicating successfully and making adjustments takes focus, effort, and humility. Good communicators do not insist that their audience rise to meet their communication level, but instead humbly adjust their style as needed.

Knowing Your Audience
When I talk, speak, or write, I try to identify my audience to increase my success. My professional topics are usually related to technology, so I often ask questions after using a term that might be unfamiliar like, “Is that a term you’re comfortable with?” Their response to that non-judgmental question helps me modify my content to increase my communication success.

Often there are multiple audiences we’re communicating to all at once. Writing a response to a support ticket is like that! I usually try to meet the communication needs of the user who opened the ticket, their supervisor, my supervisor, and sometimes (depending on the issue) our legal system. All at one time! Can I do that effortlessly or quickly? No, especially since it’s in writing. I have to re-read the content with each audience in mind and make terminology adjustments before it’s ready for the SEND button.

The Bottom Line
Don’t limit how The Lord can use you or your professional success by not communicating circumspectly. Slow down and make the effort to communicate well to your audiences, whether in a one-on-one conversation, in a group setting, or in writing. Watch for visual cues when possible and make adjustments! Those you’re communicating with will be blessed, and so will you.

[1] The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Eph 5:15). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

July – Improve System Security Month!

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles, Uncategorized

© 2018 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from MinistryTech Magazine

While speaking at a conference recently, a cybersecurity expert whose company offers email user testing and training stated that KnowBe4.com‘s solution was the best they’d ever seen. Little did they know I was in negotiations on The Church’s behalf with KnowBe4!

What Is It?
KnowBe4 is a subscription-based solution that allows an organization to send what looks like SPAM emails to users that include links, etc. The solution tracks who clicks on the links, and when they do, adds them to a group whose members must watch a short training video online to learn what to avoid. Watching the video removes them from the group.

I’m aware of organizations whose users started at an 80% or higher click-rate. They saw the solution to educate their team and get the percentage to under 10%. The results are a more secure user community, and improved security and safety for the organization.

What’s The Deal?
KnowBe4 offers a 10% discount to not-for-profit organizations, with an additional discount of 25% for a three-year subscription. So, they normally offer up to 35% in savings to charities.

Through our negotiations, KnowBe4 offered to add an additional 20% discount to any who say they were referred by MBS, and who contact a specific employee of theirs to sign up! That means you can get a 35% – 55% discount just by telling Tiffany Yeager (727.877.8226 or ​tiffanyy@knowbe4.com) you were referred by MBS! (As always, MBS makes nothing on your referral business, as per our by-laws.)

MBS Recommends Their Platinum Package
KnowBe4 offers a few packages; we believe the best for churches and ministries is their Platinum Package.

It’s July– a good month to improve your system security. This is a great way to do so!

Identifying, Shaping, & Meeting Team IT Needs

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles, Uncategorized

© 2018 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from MinistryTech Magazine

A church IT forum discussion came up recently that is worth thinking through. The original post asked for input on how to keep team members from connecting their personal devices to the password-protected staff WiFi. The discussion that followed was a little like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride! Lots of ideas being tossed around, most of which uncomfortably avoided the most important questions.

Underlying Risk
The vast majority tried to help by explaining various ways the team could be controlled or prohibited from attaching their personal devices to the staff WiFi. There were a couple voices of reason that participated, suggesting positive ways forward.

Those not in IT may not understand the underlying risk. Why shouldn’t team members connect their personal devices to the staff WiFi? There are legitimate dangers associated with letting personal devices attach to the staff WiFi.

  • The staff WiFi, usually password protected, is typically configured to give devices full access to the organization’s network as though they were connected and logged in via an Ethernet cable. That is in contrast to the public guest WiFi, which is typically configured to give devices access only to the internet, and hopefully access that is filtered.
  • The organization’s data needs to be protected. Churches and ministries maintain a lot of sensitive data that could hurt congregants and team members if not adequately protected. Data like contributions records, HR records, social security numbers of staff and some vendors, church member disciplinary notes, board minutes, and more. That data needs to be kept private, but it also needs to be kept available for team members to use in the operations of the organization. Malware like ransomware exists because hooligans understand the value associated with appropriate data access, and endeavors to block access to the data unless a ransom is paid.
  • The organization’s systems need to be protected. There are some who would like to disrupt the flow of church and ministry operations by crashing the system or participating in activities that could cause authorities to remove all computers and servers for forensic investigation and, possibly, evidence in a prosecution.

When team members use the staff WiFi on their personal devices, the organization’s data and systems are put at risk.

The Next Question
So, does that mean team members should not use the staff WiFi for their personal devices? Maybe; it depends on why they need it.

One of the forum participants, Jason Powell at Granger Community Church, contributed “Figure out what need they’re trying to solve. It took a while for our staff to be coached that there is no speed difference between our staff and public WiFi. After asking why they wanted a personal device on the staff WiFi, in almost every case, it was because they assumed it gave them something that the public WiFi didn’t. A simple conversation assured them that the public WiFi would do everything they were asking for.”

What if the need is legitimate, though? Jason continued, ‘For legit needs like interns, volunteers, etc needing a personal device to have more access, build a simple BYOD network.” A BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) network is not difficult or costly to do. The cost factors involved are more to create systems that can enforce protections and recover from breaches in case they occur.

Who Decides What IT Needs are Legitimate?
This is the part often overlooked. IT is not responsible for determining what access needs are legitimate or not; that is leadership’s responsibility. IT should communicate the benefits, risks, and any mitigation costs to leadership and ask for direction. Only leadership is responsible for determining who should and who should not have access to systems and data. IT’s role is to engineer and configure, train, monitor, and enforce the decisions made by leadership.

Effects of IT Setting Policy
When IT makes decisions without leadership’s direction, those decisions usually take the form of policies and system settings that frustrate team members. In organizations where that is the case, IT often becomes the “No” people. Some church and ministry teams get dysfunctional in the wake of those policies. Team members– who feel called by God to fulfill their ministry call– often take the posture of doing whatever it takes to fulfill their call even if it means going around IT’s policies and system settings.

Effects of Leadership Setting Policy
Policies set by leadership are ultimately enforced or modified by leadership. IT has the potential of having a ministry-facilitating impact by letting leadership set policy. And leadership should fully fund whatever is required by the policy decisions it makes, which means that IT doesn’t have to try to string together inadequate strategies. If leadership doesn’t fund IT with what is needed, IT should let leadership know and ask for either a change in policy or a change in the budget.

March is IT-Be-Green Month!

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles, Uncategorized

© 2018 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from MinistryTech Magazine

March is the month of St. Patrick’s Day, whose modern-day associated color is green. When we think ‘green’, we also think of doing things that are friendly to the environment. What are some quick tasks we can do to make IT more ‘green’?

Why the Green Focus?
Many in our congregations and ministry constituencies want us to be good stewards– not only of our financial resources, but also in the way we consume resources to accomplish ministry. I live in California, and folks– especially millennials– esteem homes, businesses, churches, and more as ‘better’ if they’re more environmentally sensitive. There are many in your congregation or ministry constituency that would be all the more pleased with associating with your organization if they knew that there are initiatives underway to help protect the environment. And that makes cost-effective green initiatives a win-win!

Green Server Rooms
A common issue we see in server rooms is that they become storage areas for all kinds of things. That happens mostly because team members don’t understand the need to keep the server room clean, cool, and secure; many perceive the space as ‘available’ even though it isn’t. Defending the space can be exhausting.

March is a great month to go through the server room and remove anything that shouldn’t be there. In addition to boxes of things others have deposited there, consider what IT-related items are stored there too! Churches and ministries sometimes have a hard time letting go of retired technology that still worked when it was retired, even though they’ll never use it again. “But what if…?”

When I visit clients, I often offer to clean out all those old CRT monitors, Pentium computers, keyboards, roller-ball mice, and cords that are gathering dust (a fire hazard) and are taking up space. Seriously, if you haven’t used it in a couple of years, it is probably trash. It’s actually good stewardship to let them go! Here are just a couple of reasons why:

  1. There are many electronics recyclers that are willing to help, and usually for free! If they’re certified electronics recyclers, you can even trust them to erase hard drives, etc as they do their recycling! And recycling is a good thing.
  2. The more things that are stored in a server room, the less cool air is available to absorb the heat exhausted by your servers and other electronic gear. That can contribute to running hotter and consuming more electricity, and cause a shorter life for some equipment. Clean server rooms are always best.

Green Systems
There are a few things worth considering and doing that will help make your IT systems more ‘green’ in general.

  1. Virtualize your servers. Virtualization is a software technology that makes it possible to reduce the number of physical servers in your organization. It uses an app called a hypervisor that allows you to install more than one virtual server on each of your physical servers, which we then call hosts. In addition to saving money by not having to purchase a bunch of physical servers, virtualization reduces the amount of electricity consumed because the number of physical servers is smaller. It also helps reduce electricity consumption by reducing the amount of heat in a server room that must be overcome by air conditioning systems because there are fewer electronic devices exhausting heat!
  2. Move Servers to The Cloud. In addition to virtualizing your local servers, consider going a step further by determining whether their roles can be moved to a hosted cloud service provider. In recent years my firm has moved many clients’ entire group of local servers into our cloud infrastructure, dramatically reducing electrical consumption while also outsourcing the responsibility to maintain those servers. The cloud is a terrific way to make your systems more green, while also reducing capital expenses.
  3. Clean Dust from Inside Computers. It’s amazing how much dust accumulates in computers. For those computers that remain on-site (servers, workstations, etc), consider cleaning their cooling fans. Perhaps organize a volunteer work party that goes to each workstation and cleans their insides! Cleaning them out every March as part of your ‘green’ initiative will reduce their electrical consumption and may extend their life because they’ll run cooler!

St. Patrick’s Day! What a great time of year to clean up server rooms– or maybe even eliminate them by moving into the cloud! And a great time to clean the dust from inside your servers and workstations (before the weather begins to warm up).