Microsoft Azure

Nonprofit Tech Deals: Microsoft Azure

Last week while I was at the Church IT Network National Conference in Anderson, SC, a colleague pointed me to a fantastic donation from Microsoft via TechSoup: $5000/year in Azure credit. At a hair over $400/month, this means you can run a pretty substantial amount of stuff. Microsoft just announced this program at the end of September, so it’s still very new. And very cool. Credits are good any time within the 12-month period, so you don’t have to split them up month by month. They do not, however, roll over to the following year.

The context of the conversation was for hosting the open-source RockRMS Church/Relationship Management System, but Wowza Streaming Engine is also available ready to go on Azure. And many other things. (and for those of us in the midwest, Microsoft’s biggest Azure datacenter is “US Central” located in Des Moines, as Iowa is currently a very business-friendly place to put a huge datacenter)

If you’re a registered 501c3 non-profit (or your local country’s equivalent if you’re outside the US), head on over to Tech Soup to take advantage of this fantastic deal.

As an added bonus, if you have Windows Server Datacenter licenses from TechSoup or that your organization purchased with Software Assurance, each 2-socket license can be run on up to two Azure compute instances each with up to 8 virtual cores, reducing the cost of your instances even further (as standard Windows instances include the cost of the Windows license at full nonprofit prices.). This also applies to SQL Server.

Here’s the process:

  1. Read the FAQ.
  2. Register your organization with TechSoup if you haven’t already done so.
  3. Head over to Microsoft’s Azure Product Donations page and hit “Get Started”
  4. At some point in the process you’ll also want to create an Azure account to associate the credits with. If you’re already using Office 365 for nonprofits, it’s best to tie an account to your O365 domain.

NACBA Admin Day

Here’s the list of resources from this morning’s presentation on Social Media 201 at the KC chapter of #NACBA Admin Day. I’ll add stuff periodically if I run across anything particularly interesting.

And, of course, it wouldn’t be complete without a plug – if your church has any IT needs that aren’t being met, head on over to my company at

VMWare opens academic pricing to non-profits!

This just in from my Dell rep, and confirmed by several in the CITRT Twitterverse: VMWare has opened up their academic pricing to non-profits. Jason Powell has the pricing information at his blog. The relevant bits from VMWare:

Definition and Requirements of a Non-Profit Entity for Eligibility to Participate in the VMware Academic Buying Program:
The following U.S. Non-Profits under U.S. Tax Code 501(c) are eligible to participate in the VMware Academic Buying Program.

  • Non-Profits are defined under U.S.Tax Code 501(c)(3) as an organization which is organized and operated exclusively for one of the following purposes:
    • Religious
    • Charitable
    • Scientific
    • Literary
    • Educational
    • In the prevention of cruelty to children or animals
    • In the testing for public safety
    • Fostering national or international amateur sports competition
  • Non-Profits under U.S. Tax Code 501(d) Religious or Apostolic Organizations
  • Non-Profits under U.S. Tax Code 501(e) Cooperative Health Services provided to Hospitals
  • Non-Profits under U.S. Tax Code 501(f) Cooperative Service Organizations of Operating Educational Organizations providing cooperative investment services for Educational Organizations
  • Non-Profits under U.S. Tax Code 501(k) Child Care Organizations which supply child care to children with working parents
  • Non-Profits under U.S. Tax Code 501(n) Charitable Risk Pools which pools insurance risks of 501(c) (3) Organizations

Not all nonprofits qualify, of course:

U.S. Organizations not eligible to participate in the VMware Academic Buying Program:

  • U.S. Tax Code 501(c) 1 Non-Profits as defined as Corporate Organization under Acts of Congress, or as Instrumentalities of the United States.
  • U.S. Tax Code 501(c) 2 Non-Profits as defined as Title Holding Corporations for Exempt Organizations, or those who hold title to property owned by Exempt Organizations.
  • Organizations filed under 501(c) (4 through 27). This includes:
    • Teachers’ Retirement Fund Associations
    • Domestic Fraternal Societies and Associations
    • Fraternal Beneficiary Societies and Associations
    • Social and Recreation Clubs
    • Business Leagues, Chambers of Commerce, Real Estate Boards, etc.
    • Labor, Agricultural, and Horticultural Organizations
    • Civic Leagues, Social Welfare Organizations, and Local Associations of Employees
    • Political organizations
    • Labor or fraternal organizations
  • Other Organizations not eligible:
    • Organizations that are an integral part of local government or have governmental powers
    • Hospitals not wholly owned by a University
    • Health Management organizations (HM)
    • Preferred Provider organization (PPO)
    • Non-profits that are not charitable organizations or act as non-profit lobbying groups
    • Private Foundations
    • Academic facilities that qualify for Academic status.

If you’re not in the US, same sort of deal applies, if your organization is equivalently defined as non-profit under your local tax codes. Contact your VMWare reseller for details.

Round Table Session 1 Notes

Cool Tools:

  • BombBomb
  • RoyalTS
  • RDTabs
  • MRemote
  • LovelyCharts
  • SpiceWorks
  • Kiwi/SolarWinds
  • Likewise
  • Mobiscope

Volunteers in IT:

  • How do we recruit volunteers?
  • Volunteer Fairs
  • Be clear about requirements
  • Background checks
  • This is a production environment, not a training ground
  • As leaders, we need to define the scope way ahead of time
  • Give your volunteers a tour, show the blinkenlights
  • Good opportunity for people out of work to keep skills sharp, feel valued
  • Weekend Announcements

Offsite Backup

  • Backups are for the weak of faith — bryson
  • What needs to be backed up, how often – not an IT decision, but a business decision
  • Control/security of offsite data
  • What’s the most important to leadership in case of a disaster?

Arena Check-In

Now that a lot of the back end of our Arena Check-in system is in place and ready to go, I’ve been focusing my efforts on the fun part… Themes!

This school year’s theme is “Go Fish”, so I set about seeing if I could come up with something fun, without hiring an external designer/illustrator to do something for us. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Main Screen

Phone Lookup Screen

Family Screen

Still a work in progress, haven’t done the buttons yet (as anyone familiar with the default Arena theme has already spotted), but it’s coming along.

I’ve got 4 different scenes to wotk with for the fish, and the original art is vector-based, so I can move fish about as needed to get out of the way of text – I think I can even make them swim from one illustration to the other via the miracle of the Windows clipboard.

The artwork is from iStockPhoto, from a designer who goes by the username totallyjamie. The font is Chaloops Medium from Chank!.

CITRT expands northward (and westward)!

I had a great chat this morning with Gregg Hatton-Fearnley, the IS/IT director at Centre Street Church here in Calgary.

The main purpose of my meeting with Gregg was to introduce myself and tell him about CITRT. CSC is the second largest church in Canada (the largest is either in Toronto or Winnipeg, he couldn’t recall which). Like most people who hear about CITRT, he was quite enthusiastic about the idea, and was bemoaning the lack of funds in his budget to go to the fall event at Seacoast. I have high hopes of seeing him at spring RT, though.

CSC has got a great facility which, as most of us have experienced, they practically had outgrown the day they opened the building. I was very impressed with Gregg’s openness and transparency about some of the big challenges he faces – he shared a lot for a first date! 🙂

Unsurprisingly, his biggest hurdles aren’t so much technological as they are human. (Has anyone else had problems getting the Worship Arts people to play nice on the network? Yeah, thought so. Wasn’t that the whole point of MinistryTECH? )

The other really big challenge CSC faces is personnel. The Calgary job market is tremendously competitive, with entry-level fast food workers fetching a starting wage of $15/hour, and a low-level network admin commands a 6-figure salary. It’s hard enough finding people to work for church wages in a sane job market, it’s got to be ridiculously hard to do in Calgary, especially when Big Oil is snapping up all the IT people it can, and for huge money.

CSC is also a recent addition to Fellowship One’s growing list of customers, and I got to experience some quirks of the check-in system on Saturday night when Andrea and I went to check out.

CITRT is truly an international bunch now… We’ve got Canadians and Australians on board too. I hope to see Gregg on IRC or the Talkcast soon 🙂

Naturally, no church visiti is complete without pictures from the facility:

This is the projector set for one of the side screens. This thing is a monster. Hard to tell from the picture, but each one is about the size of a coffin. These are mounted in the tech booth at the back of the 2400-seat sanctuary. The throw on these is a good 200 feet, possibly more.

CSC's projectors for one of the side screens

The video control room:

Video Switcher:

A decorative waterfall in the narthex. The sculpture in the middle can be removed to turn it into a baptismal pool. The “chandeliers” nearby each have about 32 dimmer channels and are built to support stage lighting as well.

The other side of the narthex:

Thin Clients, revisited

Well, it seems the t5720 we’ve been buying from CDW has been discontinued as of April 1st, replaced with the t5730. Here’s the skinny on the suggested replacement SKU from CDW:

AMD Sempron 2100+ (1GHz)
1GB Flash
Radeon X1250/dual-head support
Thinner (by about 3/4″)
Gigabit Ethernet.

Oh, and it’s almost 10% cheaper.

Hope to get my hands on one of these at some point and see how well it handles video.