Demystifying the Role of the Cloud in Platform-Based Association Management

Find out what constitutes a true cloud solution and how the technology’s benefits keep associations relevant, resilient, and at the cutting edge of their industries.

By Chris Shults, Senior Marketing Manager, Fonteva + Protech

The term cloud computing was first coined at an industry conference in August 2006 by Google’s then-CEO, Eric Schmidt. Now, more than 15 years later, the cloud is a highly recognizable tech concept, but the details surrounding it — types, features, benefits — remain foggy for many.

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

You may be familiar with cloud service models like 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 “true” 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 goes for software accessed via a remote desktop connection. In reality, these “fake” cloud products are merely cloud-hosted and lack the benefits of software that resides only in the cloud.

“Making sure that your systems are based on a ‘true’ 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’re not positioning your association to be able to survive and fulfill its mission.”

What to Avoid

“Fake” cloud systems operate through a single tenancy model in which proprietary association management software is hosted in a single physical location. With this model, the association’s often-strained (or nonexistent) IT staff is responsible for managing installations, security, and upgrades on every instance of the software.

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

“Here’s the example that I always use: I used to work with a 100% browser-based system,” said Dirk Behrends, Vice President, Association Solutions, Fonteva & Protech. “It was in the cloud, but it was hosted through a managed hosting service and all proprietary. So you had to build out duplicate checking; you had to build out the integrations between Outlook and your system. Those types of inconveniences disappear with ‘true’ cloud, platform-based solutions because the platform provider provides everything for you.”

The ‘True’ 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 the need for expensive infrastructure investments.

“Unlike proprietary association management software systems, ‘true’ cloud, platform-based solutions are purpose-built to function 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 multiple applications operate in a shared environment,” offers many advantages. Platform modules and applications, for example, integrate seamlessly within multitenant architecture, better harnessing the ecosystem’s potential and boosting cost-effectiveness.

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

“This flexibility is perfect for organizations that are growing fast and adapting to changing member expectations,” Fabbri said.

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

Research and Development within Reach

True cloud platform solutions help associations manage operations effectively because they leverage the considerable innovation investments made by industry-leading companies like Salesforce and Microsoft.

“Protech, built on Microsoft, and Fonteva, powered by Salesforce, have the ability to take advantage of world-class research and development dollars around CRMs, platforms, security, and cloud hosting,” Behrends said.

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

“They’re focusing on how to bring the functionality by connecting your CMS with their front-end tools,” said Fonteva’s Senior Technical Product Manager Shannon Zdanowicz, who has specialized in CRM software for more than 30 years. “All this functionality is built by thousands of engineers, and you get to take advantage of that ecosystem with the click of a button, as opposed to writing code or hiring somebody new.”

Unsure whether your current association technology can keep up with today’s rapidly evolving cloud technology? This quiz at identifies gaps between your existing technology and modern association platforms. Be sure to stay awhile to soak in all the site has to offer.

In early 2021, Togetherwork acquired Fonteva, a platform solution built on the robust capabilities of Salesforce. Toward the end of 2021, Togetherwork acquired Protech, an association platform solution built on Microsoft Dynamics 365. Through, Fonteva and Protech educate the industry on technology that empowers associations to deliver a modern member experience.

(Handout photo)