Tips to Maximize Your Nonprofit’s Data Plan

Data is the new coin of the realm. Learn how to stretch your budget!

Real time access to information enables nonprofits to more effectively advance their mission in a rapid response world. But anytime/anywhere access comes with a price, which can vary significantly. How do you choose the right data plan among all the options out there? Start with the numbers.

How much data do you need?

These questions and guidelines can help you figure out how much data your nonprofit’s mobile devices need.

  • How often do your workers need mobile access? Are they primarily office-based with only occasional OTR (on the road) needs? Or are they completing data-intensive tasks in the field every day?
  • Make a list of the lead applications your employees use in the field. Don’t forget corporate email, maps and directions, and messaging. Then check with the software vendors to get a range for data usages with their specific applications and multiply by the number of mobile users you have.
  • Investigate some online usage calculators, like Vodaphone’s data calculator that your employees can use to estimate their general usage. You can also use Integra’s network bandwidth calculator to get a sense of usage. But remember, these are general guidelines and not all files are created equal when it comes to downloading.
  • If you have a reliable history of data usage, look at the trends over time and make allowances for growth.
  • Consider the geographic footprint where your employees need to work and ensure the plan you choose covers you without roaming fees – especially if you have international travelers.

How to make the most of your data plan

Now that you’ve chosen a data plan, how do you make sure you don’t go over your data limit and incur expensive overage fees? Check out these tips and incorporate them into a usage policy for employees.

  • Use Wi-Fi off-loading to transfer data use off your service provider network. (But remember when downloading or transmitting sensitive company information that not all Wi-Fi is secure.)
  • Limit the most data-intensive uses to the office whenever possible. These include downloading a film (up to 1.5 GB), streaming an hour of high-def video (1-2 GB), or making Skype to Skype calls (3 MB per minute)
  • Set up access limits on each device, and take advantage of tools your carrier offers to send alerts when employees are nearing their limit. Some will even cut off access for you – a last-ditch drastic tactic.
  • Use Data Management apps to monitor use. Some even help you compress your data so you use less per billing cycle. We like Onavo’s solutions for iOS and Android. By showing you where your data goes with clear reports, it can help you catch data hoggers, help you use apps wisely with data compression, and help reduce roaming worries.
  • Shut down your apps when not in use. Some apps (like maps) keep pulling data in the background even when you’re not using them, and that’s a waste of precious MB.
  • Speaking of maps, turn off location settings when you can. Triangulating your exact position consumes a lot of data.
  • Shut off your device’s cellular data option when you’re not using it – like when you’re sleeping.
  • Switch off automated app and software updates. Update software only when you’re at a Wi-Fi hotspot.
  • Are you backing up to the cloud? That can involve a large amount of data, so make sure Wi-Fi is available before you backup.

Look into unlimited plans

If you’re really concerned about overages and don’t want to pay a national carrier for a data plan that’s bigger than you need, look into alternative carriers. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that we offer nonprofits, schools and libraries with unlimited 4G data plans for just $10/month. Regardless of which plan or service provider you choose, knowing how much data you need is the first step in being able to evaluate which offer will work best for your organization.

Are you a mobile-optimized nonprofit? Tell us: how much data does your staff use every month?

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