Category Archives: Cloud Computing

40% Off IconCMO Lite

Version 1.2 of the IconCMO Lite App is now available!

Some minor bugs were fixed and a ‘Go to Household’ button was added on the Member Detail screen. The biggest change is the price reduction – you can now purchase the app for only $2.99! If you already have the app, you can install the update for free by following the directions below.

To install the update:

  1. Connect your device (iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch) to the Internet.
  2. On the home screen, tap the “App Store” icon.
  3. On the bottom right corner of the screen, tap the “Updates” tab to display a list of available updates for your apps.
  4. On the right, tap the gray “Update” button.
  5. You will now be prompted to enter a password – this is the same password you use to make App Store purchases.
  6. Tap the “OK” button to download and install the update.

IconCMO Lite is a native iOS (iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch) app from Italic Software, Inc. The app provides pastors, staff, and even church members with the ability to view demographic data from IconCMO on the go – visit www.iconcmo.com for more information or visit the iTunes Store to download the app.


3 Essential Rules for Churches using Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, Google + and other social media platforms are great ways for churches to communicate with members, organize events, and attract new visitors. Although social media is convenient and fun, it can also have a dark side. Following these rules can help keep social media safe and enjoyable for all.

1. Be smart about what you say

As the saying goes, common sense isn’t always common practice. The purpose of social media is to communicate with and inform your network, but make sure you do so tastefully and without revealing too much information. For instance, avoid advertising the location (or future location) of minors. It is safer to say something after the fact.

Instead of posting this: The annual youth group lock-in will be at the local YMCA on Saturday night from 9 pm to 8 am – see you there!

Post this: The youth group had a great time at the annual lock-in last weekend. Thank you to everyone who participated!

Also make sure you also have permission when posting prayer requests – some people may not want personal matters shared online. If you do get permission, keep in mind that some situations are extremely sensitive and every little detail does not necessarily need to be shared.

Instead of posting this: Please pray for Susan – she is driving out of state this weekend to care for her mother who is experiencing post operative complications after her rhinoplasty.

Post this: Please pray for Susan – she is traveling this weekend to visit her mother.

Speaking of permission – verify the material isn’t copyrighted when posting things that are not your own (e.g. professional directory photos, clip art, videos, articles). Share a link to a video instead of embedding it on the church’s website or share a link to an article instead of copying and pasting it in a blog post.

Only post content that is appropriate for all audiences. You probably already refrain from posting offensive content but also make sure your posts are relevant and meaningful to everyone visiting the site (i.e. referring to an inside joke can alienate those who don’t know the story behind the humor.)

2. Monitor social media accounts regularly

Assign church staff or volunteers to monitor posts and delete any inappropriate content. Giving more than one person access to the accounts is a smart idea; that way if your social media person goes on vacation or leaves the accounts will still be updated and accessible. As insurance, post a disclaimer (just do a Google search for ‘Social Media Disclaimer’ if you need some examples.) You can’t control what others say, but most social media platforms allow you to block repeat offenders who continue to post offensive items.

3. Learn how to change security settings

Remember that social media pages can serve as a first impression to people outside of the church. Although content such as pictures, videos, etc. should be private, make sure some of the information is public so others can learn about the church and its mission. To use Facebook as an example, the church could have a public Fan Page with posts for everyone to see and also have a private group for members to share pictures, videos, and prayer requests. Read our previous post about Facebook to get instructions for creating a closed or secret group and other useful tips.


8 Things to Do When You Review Church Software in the Cloud

  1. Define your needs. Make a list of the things you want the software to accomplish and rank them by importance. Getting caught up in all of the hype is easy, so knowing your priorities before you get started will help keep you on track.
  2. Take the program for a test drive. Sign up for a free trial so you can see the system for yourself. It is probably a bad sign if you can’t ‘try it before you buy it.’
  3. Contact the support team. Did a real person answer your call? How long did it take for them to respond to your email? Sometimes software companies forget about the Service part of SaaS. If you can’t get technical help or answers to your questions, it does not matter if the program has all the features you need and more. The quality of service is what is really going to matter to you at the end of the day.
  4. Find out what kind of training is available. Does the company provide training? If so, does it cost extra? Do you have access to training as well as support during the free trial?
  5. Talk to people already using the system. See if anyone you know is using the system and ask the company for customer references (If they refuse, it might be a red flag – maybe no one is using the software or maybe the people using the software are unhappy.)
  6. Analyze the security and compliance. Is the data secure and encrypted? Who has access to your data? How often are backups performed? Can you get a copy of the backup file?
  7. Ask if they have a Disaster Recovery Plan. How often do they test it? Does it work?
  8. Read the contract. Will the price increase every few months if you don’t sign a long contract? How often is your subscription cost adjusted (whether it’s up or down) based on your usage level? Do you own the data?

Cloud Computing – Security Myths Explained for Churches.

Cloud computing church management (or cloud based church management) is really a no-brainer for churches. The biggest advantage for the smaller church is; it frees up the time for the minister or other staff that are stretched thin to minister to the community and their members. It allows them to further their mission without worrying about the back-end data. For the larger organization; it saves them the nightly backup headaches, money from hiring an IT staff, and time. At Icon Systems we often hear several reasons why a church won’t move their data to the cloud. One is because of the security of their data. The data security issue is often laughable. When a church compares its current security practices with the safeguards available in the cloud by IT professionals, state of the art data centers, and security consultants at a fraction of the cost, this discussion usually vaporizes.

Often one of the underlying issues is that someone does not want the data taken from the church’s property. This reason is ironic because every security expert would agree that your data should be kept in at least two places which would force the organization to take the data off the premise. Additionally, security experts agree that the data should be a considerable distance apart because of natural catastrophes – IE: 1,000 miles or greater because of floods, hurricanes, or tornadoes. One of the most efficient and effective ways to accomplish this is to send it to the cloud at another location. When you start factoring in the cost of doing this as one organization it simply does not pay, because the organization can not leverage economies of scale like a software company that serves thousands of clients. Economies of scale is also why churches can not hire proficient security consultants in the industry for the servers they have in their data center. Churches are hiring one person to take care of one organization instead of hiring one person to take care of thousands of organizations with the same hardware and software architecture.

Another aspect that is often over looked for on premise computing is the budgets for the infrastructure that houses the servers. The budgets for on premise computing is relentlessly being cut back and one of those repercussions is security. In fact one of the first things to be cut is the security. The opposite is true for companies that are in the business of offering cloud computing solutions. They invest their revenue into state of the art facilities so they can have better hardware, software, security measures, data centers, remote recovery procedures, etc. at their disposal and beat their competition. This is one of the reasons Icon Systems is one of the only software companies that offer 256 bit data encryption the entire time the user is logged in – a feature that other companies charge extra for. The data centers they use are seen as profit centers (how they make their money) and not overhead (loss money with no return) as in other organizations. Cloud computing companies see security as part of their bread and butter because without investing in it they would go bankrupt.

Can cloud computing be scary from the security stand point? – Yes it can be. Understanding where the fear comes from within the organization is job number one. Assessing that fear to see if it is a valid fear or a myth is the next step. If it truly exist then what steps are necessary to minimize the risk? Does the solution provider have the right protocols in place for it? Remember this important rule – cloud computing is just as safe if not safer than on premise computing.

Jay
Technical Sales – Data Conversions – Multisite Strategies
Icon Systems, Inc.

Excel meets IconCMO church software

An update for IconCMO and its Reports!

The largest report related release to date for the IconCMO church software solution. The developers have given churches the ability to download reports in an Excel format from the IconCMO church management software (ChMS) solution. The enhancement greatly increases the flexibility of the IconCMO church software. Users can modify the standard reports and add various headings, data, etc. to the downloaded excel file to create their own customized reports. The majority of the reports in IconCMO were modified to offer this feature to our clients.  Additionally, we also changed the screens for reporting. The developers are laying the groundwork for future reporting styles to be added to our flagship church software product.

In addition to this great enhancement we have also included the normal export screens to go directly into Excel.  Now the system will directly send the data into Excel for the user – saving time in retrieving data for the end user!

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Donation Comments added to the Standard & Simple Statements.

Contribution statements done through IconCMO can include comments for the individual entries. The comments are entered in during the processing of contributions each week. These comments can be put in so the church has more details about certain transactions.

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Email History for Households Added to IconCMO!

It has been an exciting time at Icon Systems for the Development team.  Today Icon Systems uploaded all new code for the entire IconCMO system to work faster on the Internet and eliminate cache issues in browsers.

Included in this upload was additional enhancements like email history. This function is found in two areas of the system:

  • Household Menu (Hse-List)
  • System Menu (Email History)

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