Category: Nonprofit

Not All or Nothing: How to Make Progress without Breaking the Bank

The implementation of highly scalable, easy-to-deploy technology is transforming the public sector, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Organizations begin their cloud adoption journeys in many ways. Some start with pilot projects and others jump into mission-critical programs, but they are all starting with an existing infrastructure. Adopting cloud doesn’t mean scrapping it all and starting over.

First, let’s define hybrid IT architecture. A hybrid IT architecture allows organizations to simplify the migration and management of applications by integrating on-premises environments with a commercial cloud. This means that a move to the cloud does not necessarily mean ripping everything out – it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Customers may choose to implement hybrid operations with AWS in order to be secure, scale, and take advantage of the breadth of services and the depth of features available in AWS.

At our 2016 AWS Public Sector Summit, we hosted a panel that explored how organizations are using cloud while building on their existing technology and lessons they’ve learned along the way. Check out some of the advice straight from our government customers, James Graham, Director Enterprise Content Management (ECM) & Enterprise Data Management (EDM), U.S. Department of Treasury and Dan Thomas, Chief Engineer, DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority, as well as key APN partners on how to begin your path to a hybrid IT architecture.

  • Determine key drivers. For most organizations, you should determine what your key drivers are. Does cost matter most? Agility? Security? Speed? These drivers will decide what makes sense for your organization and whether you invest in physical hardware or make the decision to go to the cloud.
  • Be pragmatic. Figure out what you want based on your key drivers. If speed is your goal, then pinpoint where you want to move fast and where you don’t need that speed. If you are operating on premises, it may make sense to continue running in your own data center for awhile, but if you want the self-service agility benefits of the cloud, then it may be time to start moving applications.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment. The cloud can give you the extra agility to experiment, even in a highly regulated industry. A hybrid approach allows you to make changes to interfaces and product offerings, and iterate more quickly. Cloud can give you the extra agility you may not have on premises.
  • Look at capacity and capability. If you need to burst capacity, going to the cloud may be the best way to burst, especially if you have a seasonal or one-time demand. And when you have new requirements, you can see if that capability can come from the AWS Marketplace instead of requiring a home-grown application.

Watch more of our session videos from the AWS Public Sector Summit here. And watch the AWS Public Sector Summit Highlights video below.

If you are interested in simplifying the migration and management of applications by integrating your on-premises environments with the AWS Cloud, please visit our “Hybrid Cloud Architectures with AWS” page for more details.

And if you will be attending re:Invent, then make sure to check out the hybrid sessions below:



AWS Customers Saving Lives with Mobile and IoT Technology

Technological innovation can often save lives or enable rapid intervention in situations where lives are threatened. From responding to gun shots  informing and mobilizing responders on school campuses, to fighting child trafficking, organizations have been able to move rapidly to address pressing societal problems.

The AWS Cloud has allowed teams to be agile and focus more on their missions rather than IT, giving them more time to focus on saving lives. Check out some of our customers who save lives with mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

ShotSpotter – Detect, Locate, and Alert on Gunfire in Under a Minute

ShotSpotter delivers real-time gunshot notifications to law enforcement so they can dispatch to the precise location of the gunshot, engage with the community, look for evidence and occasionally help victims and make arrests. Their goal is to help drive down illegal gun use.

The ShotSpotter solution is an excellent example of the AWS Cloud enabling next generation technology for the public safety community. ShotSpotter turned to AWS because they needed to cover a broad range of technologies, spanning sensor hardware design and embedded software development, classification of gunshots through machine learning, development of algorithms for precisely locating gunshots in a challenging acoustic environment, sensor network management, API development, and front-end technologies for delivering gunshot notifications and analysis.

Hear from Paul Ames, SVP, Products and Technology, at ShotSpotter alongside Kristin Boorse, Senior Product Manager, at Thorn at re:Invent 2016 in this session.

Thorn – Digital Defenders of Children Dedicated to Driving Technology Innovation

Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children is a nonprofit organization dedicated to driving technology innovation. Thorn maintains a vast global network of professionals on the front lines of this issue. They invest in research to better understand emerging trends. Then, they explore new strategies to identify victims, deter predators and disrupt platforms through the innovation lab, hackathons and partnerships. They try things that haven’t been done before, and will risk failure to achieve greater impact from success. When they identify a new approach that has impactful results, they will invest to scale that tool and put it in the hands of those who can deploy it across the country and internationally for broadest reach.

LiveSafe – Mission to Make the World a Safer Place through Crowdsourced Intelligence

LiveSafe, a mobile safety communications platform for crowdsourced intelligence, was born from a spirit of triumph over tragedy and the desire to make the world a safer place. After the mass shootings at Virginia Tech, the founding team saw an opportunity to mobilize and connect people through technology. LiveSafe is putting safety in everyone’s hands to prevent incidents and directly connect people to the help they need. Via the mobile safety app installed on individuals’ smartphones, every submission via text, photo or video is collected with location data to facilitate two-way communication between students and campus security and providing actionable responses from real-time information. Data can also be submitted anonymously, protecting an individual’s identity while still providing critical information to relevant officials.

When considering the technology needed to run mobile apps, LiveSafe looked for scalability, reliability, security, user engagement, and  low cost. Learn more about how the AWS Cloud helps them to scale rapidly during times of instances, like a security threat on campus or at a stadium in this past blog post.

Sri Elaprolu, Global Public Sector IoT Lead at AWS, will lead the “AWS Customers Saving Lives with Mobile and IoT Technology” session with Thorn and ShotSpotter at re:Invent. Sign up for this session here!


Sensitive Data can be Shared Across Organizations While Supporting Compliance with Privacy Laws

In the social service and public health sectors, providers rely on data collected by many different institutions to provide the best care to their clients.  But data management and analysis can cause challenges for the social service and public health sectors.

In order to take an integrated approach, case workers must have the capacity to share and access vital information about the client, not only within their own agency but also with partner agencies involved in the client’s care. The challenge has been that each agency traditionally uses its own system of data collection, and these systems are not designed for cross-collaboration. Furthermore, U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and other mandates require that sensitive data must be managed securely and in compliance with the law.

VerticalChange, an APN partner, recognized a need for more flexible, affordable, and easy-to-use tools for data collection and reporting. VerticalChange provides a range of security features including SSL encryption for all communication within the application, as well as role-based permissions and logging related to access of all client data. These and other features enable organizations to maintain compliance with relevant security privacy regulations including HIPAA.

VerticalChange uses the cloud to provide access to your data wherever you are, quickly and securely. The application can scale to meet your needs whether you have 5 or 5000 users, and the utility pricing of the cloud allows them to provide a cost effective pay-as-you-go service with full support.

“Previously, service providers and case workers have been limited to an offering of niche products that lack sophistication and flexibility. But because VerticalChange runs on AWS and is distinctively agile, we were able to provide continuous live deployment in a robust architecture that is constantly improving. And we are able to do this across a range of service domains. This has all been possible because of AWS,” said Jonathan Humfrey, CEO of VerticalChange.

Connected Data: The County of Santa Barbara, CA

For example, in early childhood education, data is often fragmented and does not connect across systems. The County of Santa Barbara uses VerticalChange to collect, manage, and share critical programmatic data for its Early Childhood Education initiatives with its 20+ nonprofit and government agency partners. As systems connect with school districts and other providers, they can determine if kids who had access to certain services are on a trajectory to do better in specific areas, such as third grade reading and math scores. The Santa Barbara Foundation and a number of other foundations have supported research and development related to the project through grants to nonprofit partners.

Based on the success of the first proof of concept, VerticalChange iterated on this idea and the latest solution now:

  • has import/export functionality;
  • can be integrated across different systems;
  • can bring data from multiple systems into a single VerticalChange account where it can be combined with other data;
  • And, another component allows for the integration by API with an assessment tool for mental health.

VerticalChange has evolved into a powerful tool for programs and initiatives that include multiple service providing agencies. Learning from the lessons of the County of Santa Barbara, the Research Department at Child Care Resource Center is now using VerticalChange for projects in San Bernardino, Los Angeles, and Riverside counties, including two federally funded demonstration projects.

VerticalChange is able to help its clients manage and utilize their data more effectively, giving them time back to spend helping people.

Learn how to use AWS to meet requirements for HIPAA, FERPA, and CJIS in this presentation here.

Attending AWS re:Invent 2016? Don’t miss the “Using AWS to Meet Requirements for Education, Healthcare and Public Safety (HIPAA, FERPA, and CJIS)” session during the Public Sector Pre-Day on Monday, November 28, 2016.


Election Day: Examples of how the Cloud Scales to Meet Election Demand

Are you getting out to vote today? At AWS, we have supported election and voting-related projects with cloud computing services to scale for the influx of traffic these websites receive during the election period.  If you register to vote, donate to a candidate, look up information on where and how to vote, or carpool to the polls – you may be using the cloud.

With the eyes of the nation focused on the election, the organizations listed below (among others) use AWS for inexpensive and highly scalable infrastructure to build websites, host core systems, and manage outreach and fundraising.

Get out there and vote – and read how these organizations use the cloud to quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively meet their mission.

Pew Charitable Trusts Voting Information Project – The Voting Information Project (VIP) works with states to provide official information to voters about where to vote and what’s on their ballots. VIP uses an open format to make election data available and accessible, bringing cutting edge technology to ensure that all eligible Americans have the information they need to cast a ballot.

Rhode Island’s Voter Information Center – The Voter Information Center (VIC) handles requests for information such as polling place look-up, sample ballots, elected officials, overseas voter information, as well as many similar functions related to elections. The purpose of this project is to make our VIC highly available during periods of extremely high traffic, such as weeks leading up to and including Election Day.

The League of Women Voters – Since 1920, the nonpartisan political organization, League of Women Voters (LWV), has sought to improve US systems of government and impact public policies through education and advocacy. The LWV Education Fund (LWVEF) runs the website, which provides nonpartisan election information to the public. As a website devoted to elections, experiences surges in volume over the period leading up to Election Day during federal election years. The rest of the time, has a relatively low volume of traffic. The hosting solution needed to serve as many as half a million unique visitors on Election Day, and then scale down after the polls closed. “The choice to move to the cloud was clear,” says Jeanette Senecal, Senior Director, LWVEF. “AWS was exactly what we needed: a hosting solution that scaled seamlessly,” Senecal says. Learn more about how the League of Women Voters uses the AWS Cloud here.

National Democratic Institute –  The National Democratic Institute (NDI), which works to ensure free and fair elections and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide, needed a flexible IT infrastructure that was secure and low-cost. By moving to AWS and scaling infrastructure appropriately, the organization reduced costs by 90% and improved security by using AWS security groups and features. Watch the video about how they leverage the AWS Cloud here.

Open Source Election Technology (OSET) Foundation’s TrustTheVote™ Project OSET is utilizing AWS to ensure that the democratic process is not threatened by archaic and obsolete systems. Often, these systems are no longer supported by manufacturers, and in the case of voting machinery, rely on proprietary software that’s difficult to inspect or audit. OSET chose to make its software available on AWS GovCloud (US), because it offers the security and compliance for sensitive data, while offering the scalability, agility, and cost savings of the cloud. And it can be quickly and easily delivered anywhere in the country. Cloud-based voter registration, ballot design, and election results reporting are ideal starting points to lowering costs and improving the public trust in our democracy.

Rock the VoteRock the Vote, one of the largest nonprofit and nonpartisan organizations in the United States driving the youth vote to the polls, hosts their registration platform and services on the AWS Cloud. Rock the Vote’s voter registration platform is a free, open source solution that makes voter registration easier for voters and partner organizations across the country. Moving Rock the Vote’s platform to the AWS Cloud allowed for increased scalability for an increasingly mobile society, with the same robust service and approach to security AWS delivers to all commercial and government customers worldwide. “Cloud technology combined with open data, open standards, and open source development can be a game-changer in election administration,” said Teresa Carlson, Vice President, Worldwide Public Sector, Amazon Web Services. “Leveraging the AWS Cloud’s highly scalable and secure infrastructure will help enable Rock the Vote to raise the bar on innovative voter registration services.”

Democratic National Committee –  The Democratic National Committee (DNC) assists local, state, and federal Democratic candidates. The organization moved from a traditional IT infrastructure to AWS to run its website and to gather, store, and deliver voter data to other political organizations. By using AWS, the DNC reduced its IT footprint, cut costs, and enabled scaling for its website to easily handle spikes in traffic. Watch this video on how the DNC runs its website and voter data collection on AWS here.

And as we say goodbye to President Barack Obama, read how the cloud helped the Obama for America 2012 campaign in this video.

While we wait to hear who will be the next president of the United States, continue to learn how AWS handles the heavy lifting of IT so organizations can focus their time and resources on their mission.


From Passion to Scale: Bringing People to the Polls with the Carpool2Vote App

With the countdown to the election in full force, modern politics has combined with technology to help shape the social landscape with Carpool2Vote. The non-partisan app seeks to empower women voters and increase voter turnout by connecting voters needing a ride to the polls.

What started as an experiential learning project for Nicole Wild Merl and her mentor, Thomas Cook, through Northeastern’s first virtual Education Cooperative, has now grown into a community of activists sharing their voices and providing free rides to the polls through their app. Carpool2Vote is a digital platform of WomenVotes, a blog and social platform.

“To develop the platform, we had to do research and decide on the technology that could help create something from passion to scale. Given the nature of elections, and considering that we are a nonprofit with two of us on staff, we needed something that was fast, scalable, and secure. And for our end users, we needed something that was reliable and easy to use,” said Nicole, co-founder of WomenVotes and Carpool2Vote.

WomenVotes used the AWS Cloud to combine educational studies with a political purpose in order build and iterate on their Carpool2Vote app in time for the elections. By running their app on the AWS Cloud, Nicole and Thomas were able to take the heavy lifting out of building their infrastructure so they could focus on what matters most to them – getting voters to the polls on election day.

“We wanted to develop an app that provided free rides so there was no excuse for anyone not to get out and have their voice heard in the elections. We joined together and believed in a cause. As individuals, we know that technology levels the playing field and allows us to make a difference,” Thomas said.

Carpool2Vote has the power to make an impact. Carpool2Vote is bringing people to the polls who may not have had the access or opportunity to get to their polling location on their own. It is also encouraging and building a community by allowing volunteers who are passionate about voting to help those who may need extra encouragement to get there. If they reach their goal of ten thousand users during this election period, then that is ten thousand users who may not have voted. Since launching Carpool2Vote and early this year, Nicole and Thomas have been joined by a community of collaborators that include government representatives, women’s networking associations, and media companies. Using the AWS Cloud, WomenVotes was able to build Carpool2Vote in time for the general election, and will continue to grow using the cloud.

“With WomenVotes being a grassroots organization, Amazon Web Services allows us to grow as an organization, advance our mission, and reinvent how we look at the future,” said Nicole.

Follow along at #WomenVotes. And you can download Carpool2Vote for free in the App store and for Androids here.

Learn how to use Carpool2Vote in this video below.


AWS Public Sector Month in Review – October


The AWS Public Sector Month in Review below features the content published for the education, government, and nonprofit communities in October.

Let’s take a look at what happened in October:

All – Government, Education, & Nonprofits



New Customer Success Stories

Latest YouTube Videos

Upcoming Events

Attend one of our upcoming events and meet with AWS experts to get all of your questions answered. Register for one of the events below:

Follow along on Twitter for all of the latest AWS news for government and education.

Ohio Region Launch Accelerating Sustainability, Economy, and Citizen Services

AWS announced the launch of a new region in Ohio, bringing technology opportunities, sustainability efforts, and a new way to meet compliance and data residency requirements to public sector customers.

At AWS, our customers’ requirements and feedback help us make key decisions when building new regions. The launch of a region in Ohio will allow more of our public sector customers to realize the benefits of the AWS Cloud. Our government, education, and nonprofit customers are helping to make the world a better place, and we are committed to helping these organizations innovate and achieve their missions using cloud technology.

“We are excited to know that Amazon Web Services’ new Columbus-area region is now live. The presence of one of the world’s leading cloud computing companies speaks volumes about how the City of Columbus and the surrounding area are focused on the future and to improving the lives of our residents in a sustainable manner,” said Mayor Andrew Ginther of the City of Columbus. “We welcome the activation of the new Amazon Web Services region, and we look forward to working with Amazon Web Services and our other Smart City Challenge partners on planning and implementing our vision for SmartColumbus.”

Region Launch Highlights for the Public Sector

  • Customers using this new Ohio region will retain complete control and ownership of where their data is physically located, making it easy to meet regional compliance and data residency requirements.
  • In addition to the environmental benefits customers inherently receive when running applications in the cloud, AWS has a long-term commitment to achieve 100% renewable energy usage for our global infrastructure footprint. In doing so, we hope to do our part to help tip the scales in the environment’s favor.
  • Customers and area citizens alike will benefit from new technology opportunities in state and local government organizations, and within the growing startup and developer community in Ohio. AWS looks forward to working closely with area businesses and public sector organizations to grow a cloud ecosystem.
  • AWS will also work with area students and teachers to help build the next generation of cloud computing workers.

Our work with cities and universities in Ohio is already underway. AWS has signed on to be a founding sponsor of HACKOHI/O, an event being hosted by Ohio State University (OSU) on November 19 (learn more information about the event and register here). Over 700 students will gather for a weekend to solve civic-minded challenges in the areas of health, agriculture, smart cities, and more. AWS will submit challenges based on our experience in the public sector and provide technical resources and credits through our AWS Educate program.

Watch this video of Michael V. Drake, President of The Ohio State University, welcoming AWS to Ohio.

This summer, the City of Columbus was announced as the winner of the US Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Smart Cities Challenge.  AWS worked with with US DOT during the competition and provided the City of Columbus with a total of $1M in AWS credits and professional services to help make their smart transportation initiatives a reality. We look forward to working with the city over the course of their implementation and helping them become a true smart city.

In addition, AWS recently worked with OSU by sponsoring the OSU Agriculture Analysis Day in tandem with the 2016 Farm Science Review and in support of Ohio State’s Discovery Themes, including data analytics and food and agriculture transformation.

Finally, AWS has also formed a partnership with JobsOhio and we look forward to seeing the impact this new region has on Ohio and the surrounding areas!

“With the launch of Amazon Web Services’ newest data centers, the global leader in cloud computing now has an Ohio home,” said JobsOhio President and Chief Investment Officer John Minor. “Along with our partners at Columbus 2020, we look forward to working closely with AWS as it grows its worldwide digital capacity here in Ohio.”

Learn more about the new region and hear about what it means to AWS and our customers:

Whiteboard with an SA: AWS Direct Connect

In this brief whiteboarding video, learn how to establish a dedicated network connection from your premises to AWS with AWS Direct Connect. Todd Gagorik, AWS Solutions Architect, shows you how you can establish private connectivity between AWS and your datacenter, office, or colocation environment with AWS Direct Connect. In many cases, this can reduce your network costs, increase bandwidth throughput, and provide a more consistent network experience than Internet-based connections.

Todd will walk you through how to establish a dedicated network connection between your network and one of the AWS Direct Connect locations. This allows you to use the same connection to access public resources, such as objects stored in Amazon S3 using public IP address space, and private resources, such as Amazon EC2 instances running within an Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) using private IP space, while maintaining network separation between the public and private environments.

Watch this video to learn how you can take advantage of the benefits of AWS Direct Connect.

Continue to whiteboard with our AWS Worldwide Public Sector Solutions Architects for step-by-step instructions and demos on topics important to you in our YouTube Channel. Have a question about cloud computing? Our public sector SAs are here to help! Send us your question at

AWS Public Sector Month in Review – September

Check out the AWS Public Sector Month in Review featuring the content published for the education, government, and nonprofit communities in September.

Let’s take a look at what happened this past month:

All – Government, Education, & Nonprofits




New Customer Success Stories

Latest YouTube Videos

Upcoming Events

Attend one of the events happening in October listed below and meet with AWS experts to get all of your questions answered.

Follow along on Twitter for all of the latest AWS news for government and education.

Whiteboard with an SA: Tags

What are tags and what can you do with them? Tags help you manage your instances, images, and other Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) resources. Tags enable you to categorize your AWS resources in different ways – for example, by purpose, owner, or environment.

In this whiteboarding video, Jerry Rhoads, AWS Solutions Architects, walks you through how to tag. This is useful when you have many resources of the same type — you can quickly identify a specific resource based on the tags you’ve assigned to it. We recommend that you devise a set of tag keys that meets your needs for each resource type. Using a consistent set of tag keys makes it easier for you to manage your resources. You can search and filter the resources based on the tags you add.

Watch this demo video to learn more about how tagging works.

Continue to whiteboard with our AWS Worldwide Public Sector Solutions Architects for step-by-step instructions and demos on topics important to you in our YouTube Channel. Have a question about cloud computing? Our public sector SAs are here to help! Send us your question at