The importance of reliability in a grants management software

by | Aug 19, 2021

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This is Part 4 in a 5-part series, where we look at why security is important in grantmaking and what you should look for when evaluating a grants management system.

An important aspect of software selection is how reliable the software is under varying conditions. No one likes software that performs one day and fails the next. It makes it incredibly difficult to manage a program like this. And there are significant security issues with unreliable software. What happens to the system when it is failing? Do the security measures become vulnerable? Are you losing applications? What about assessments and scores?

Lost data is a scary prospect and with immature software or cobbled together systems, it is an inevitability. Ensure your software selection process considers the reliability of the software by assessing whether the following practices and features are available.

In this article, we’ll cover specific reliability practices and features you can look for to ensure you choose a mature and reliable grants management system for your program.

Reliability in grants management software

1. Business continuity and disaster recovery

If something were to happen to the underlying infrastructure, the program data or something else which involved the partial or total inability to access the software, is there a business continuity and disaster recovery plan in place to help resolve the issues? The processes and procedures of a good business continuity and disaster recovery plan may not be made available to the public so this is a key question to ask any software provider when you open dialog with them.

In Good Grants:

In the event of a disruption to our operations, our business continuity and disaster recovery plan is in place and ensures minimal impact on our clients and their programs.

2. Scale

An unfortunate reality of many systems today is that they are simply not built to scale. That is, they are not built to grow beyond what they were initially designed for. Programs running on spreadsheets or custom-built systems can attest to this. When a system receives a significant increase in applications beyond what it was designed for or there are more users within a system than it was built to handle then errors, corruption and damage can result.

Ensure the software you select has a proven track record of managing applications within both your expected and unexpected high ranges to ensure the reliability of your program remains.

In Good Grants:

Our industry-leading cloud infrastructure utilising AWS is designed with redundancy and failover systems in place and is optimised for performance. It is built to respond to increased client data and user loads, fast. And our platform performs consistently and predictably, even under high application and user volumes.

3. Availability + transparency

In much the same vein as scale, availability of a system or software is essential to normal and predictable day-to-day operations and program management. If the system is always under repairs, something is consistently bringing the software down or the servers are unavailable for whatever reason, it can be a significant thorn in the side of maintaining momentum and saving time, which is what the software is intended to help you do.

A great indicator of how available your prospective software is to check their public status page. If they don’t have one, it’s not worth evaluating. Status pages are a great indicator of how transparent a software vendor is about the state of their software and how often their software is available.

If the software has less than 95% uptime, that would be considered fairly poor. Especially when 5% works out to a total of 216 hours in a year. That’s almost 40 minutes of downtime per day. And that’s still averaged out over the course of a year.

In Good Grants:

Since inception, Good Grants clients have enjoyed more than 99.99% service availability. The majority of downtime was for scheduled maintenance, which we communicated well in advance. You can view our real-time system status, detailing the status of various components of the platform as well as the platform as a whole, from our open and publicly accessible status page.

4. Testing

The world of software engineering is anything but straight-forward. It is complicated and difficult. This requires good, smart people but also good, smart people who do the right things at the right time. One of those things is testing. And its importance cannot be overstated. Does the software vendor have a habit of releasing new features that break the fabric of the software? Do they test their systems regularly to ensure they are functioning normally and not rely on their clients to report down time? Do they perform regular checks like penetration testing to ensure the security practices they perform are indeed working to expectation?

To learn more about these practices, look to see if a penetration report is available.

While these are rarely shared publicly, a software buyer is well within their rights to validate the test has been performed by requesting a copy of the report. Once you have received this report, ensure there are no issues or vulnerabilities reported and if there were, make sure you know what the software vendor is doing to resolve them.

In Good Grants:

Good Grants performs rigorous security testing including risk analysis, automated scanning and third-party vulnerability and penetration testing. In the unlikely event a security incident or data breach occurs, we have a best-practice resolution path in place and will alert account owners by email immediately.

If clients wish to perform their own penetration testing, we will be happy to facilitate this on a special-purpose non-production clone stack by arrangement. Our most recent penetration test certificate is available on request.

In Part 5, we’ll cover the core features to keep an eye out for when it comes to privacy and compliance. Download our free ebook, which includes a handy checklist you can use to evaluate different grants management systems. 

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