Demystifying the role of the cloud in platform-based association management

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By Chris Shults, Senior Director of Marketing, Fonteva + Protech

The term cloud computing was first coined at an industry conference in August 2006 by Eric Schmidt, then CEO of Google. Now, more than 15 years later, the cloud is a highly recognizable technology concept, but the details surrounding it – types, features, benefits – remain hazy to many.

At the most basic level, cloud computing allows users to remotely access system resources, such as databases and software, that are stored on the Internet rather than on a user’s hard drive. As a result, multiple users can mine these resources on demand from anywhere on any device with an internet connection.

You may be familiar with models of cloud services such as Google Workspace, Dropbox, Microsoft Dynamics 365, and Salesforce, which are delivered over the Internet, freeing users from software installation and maintenance. This software distribution technique is known as software as a service (SaaS).

But not all clouds are created equal. When investing in association management software, leaders should be aware of the difference between “real” cloud solutions and their “fake” counterparts.

It’s easy to assume that legacy software products installed on an on-premises file server or in a local data center are cloud-based; the same applies to software accessed through a remote desktop connection. In reality, these “fake” cloud products are simply hosted in the cloud and do not enjoy the benefits of software that resides solely in the cloud.

“Make sure your systems are based on a ‘true’ The cloud platform is a business concept, not just an IT argument,” said Dirk Behrends, Vice President, Association Solutions, Fonteva & Protech. “If you don’t, you are not positioning your association to survive and fulfill its mission.”

What to avoid

Fake cloud systems operate on a single-tenancy model where proprietary association management software is housed in a single physical location. With this model, the association’s often-stretched (or non-existent) IT staff is responsible for managing installations, security, and upgrades on each instance of the software.

According to AssociationPlatforms.com, single-tenant modes of operation often mean that software upgrades take weeks or months, requiring significant downtime. In addition, this “fake” cloud approach is generally less efficient and therefore more expensive.

“Here’s the example I always use: I was working with a 100% browser-based system,” said Dirk Behrends, VP, Association Solutions, Fonteva & Protech. “It was in the cloud, but it was hosted through a managed, fully proprietary hosting service. So you had to create a duplicate check; you had to create the integrations between Outlook and your system. Those kinds of inconveniences go away with the “real” platform-based cloud solutions, because the platform provider provides everything for you.”

The “real” cloud difference

“True” cloud association management systems, also known as platform-based solutions, are ideal for associations because they provide subscription-based access to robust applications without requiring costly infrastructure investments.

“Unlike proprietary association management software systems, solutions based on a ‘true’ cloud platform are specifically designed to operate in a secure, multi-tenant architecture,” said Jake Fabbri, Chief Marketing Officer at Togetherwork. .

Multitenancy, defined by Gartner as “the mode of operation of software where multiple independent instances of one or more applications operate in a shared environment”, offers many advantages. The platform’s modules and applications, for example, integrate seamlessly into the multi-tenant architecture, better exploiting the potential of the ecosystem and increasing profitability.

“Genuine” multi-tenant cloud environments also eliminate the need for high-maintenance on-premises servers while providing adaptability and scalability. Highly adaptable and scalable systems allow associations to adapt quickly to changing member demands, meaning they are less susceptible to outages, even when faced with a sudden influx of users.

“This flexibility is perfect for organizations that grow quickly and adapt to changing member expectations,” Fabbri said.

Another benefit is that the heavy monitoring and administrative burdens inherent in “fake” single-tenant cloud environments are essentially eliminated with true cloud solutions. Instead, data is secured with real-time updates and patches, helping to protect your association from cybercriminals.

Research and development at your fingertips

True cloud platform solutions help associations manage their operations efficiently, as they leverage the significant investments in innovation made by industry-leading companies such as Salesforce and Microsoft.

“Microsoft-based Protech and Salesforce-powered Fonteva have the ability to leverage world-class research and development dollars around CRMs, platforms, security and cloud hosting,” said Behrends said.

Microsoft, for example, invested nearly $21 billion in research and development for fiscal year 2021, which ended June 30, 2021. Salesforce has an equally impressive engineering target, especially when it comes to the “real” investments in the cloud.

“They are focused on how to bring functionality by connecting your CMS to their front-end tools,” said Shannon Zdanowicz, Senior Technical Product Manager at Fonteva, which has specialized in CRM software for over 30 years. “All of these features are built by thousands of engineers, and you can take advantage of this ecosystem with just a click, instead of writing code or hiring someone new.”

Not sure if your current association technology can keep up with the rapid evolution of cloud technology? This Quiz on AssociationPlatforms.com identifies the gaps between your existing technology and modern association platforms. Be sure to stick around for a while to soak up all the site has to offer.


In early 2021, Togetherwork acquired Fonteva, a platform solution based on the robust capabilities of Salesforce. At the end of 2021, Togetherwork acquired Protech, an associative platform solution based on Microsoft Dynamics 365. AssociationPlatforms.comFonteva and Protech are educating the industry on technology that enables associations to deliver a modern member experience.

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