The Cloud Storage Service

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The Cloud Storage Service

Note: In the OnDemand version of the program, the Cloud Storage Service is not used. The OnDemand version, and the Cloud Storage Service in the Standard Version of DONATION, are alternate ways of having multiple users on different computers. So the following page is not relevant for users of the OnDemand version.


Some users with fast, reliable Internet on all computers on which they want to use DONATION (which is also required for the Cloud Storage service), may prefer the OnDemand version, because of its very easy installation and ability to have multiple simultaneous users. Another option, if all of the computers on which you need to run DONATION are in the same location, is the Local Network Versions. Please see Multiple User Options for the pros and cons of each of these versions.


The Cloud Storage Service is sort of a combination of the techniques in the Help topics Transfer your Data between Computers, Making Internet Backups, and Restoring Internet Backups. Please read each of those topics before continuing with this topic, to understand the background.


For paid users of the Standard version, no additional payment is required for using the Cloud Storage Service - you do not have to pay for additional users. The Service is just a standard feature of that version. (Of course, no payment is required at all if you are still evaluating the program, or using the free legacy Lite version.)


A quick explanation of the Cloud Storage Service is that it is for cases when two or more users install the Standard version of DONATION on their computers, and want to share the same database across the Internet. The official copy of the database is always an encrypted Internet backup stored on the Software4Nonprofits server. When you start DONATION with the Cloud Storage Service turned on, you are prompted for the encryption password, then the program "takes control" of the database, downloads the latest Internet backup to their computer, and restores it. You do the work on your computer, then when you exit DONATION, the program uploads a backup of the database back to the Internet storage, and "releases control".

When any one user has control, no other user can get control and do editing. However, they can still get an up-to-date copy of the database (up to the point where the first user started using it) and access it read-only. This prevents the sort of problems that can come up with the manual methods for transferring backups back and forth in "Transfer your Data between Computers", if the users don't keep track of who has control of the database.

If you were the last user to upload the database to the server, when you next run DONATION it doesn't waste time downloading it again, it just takes control and uses your existing database. And if you don't make any real changes to data during your run of DONATION, it doesn't waste time uploading a backup to the server again.

We should note that "take control" and "release control" are sort of metaphors - an easy way to understand what is going on. Other metaphors that might be helpful are the concept of having a reservation to use the database, and releasing that reservation. Or, for anyone with computer programming experience, checking out the database and then checking it back in.

This service is not available with the Local Network or OnDemand versions of DONATION, because they use a completely different way of sharing just one database file.

It is only recommended that you use this service if every computer running DONATION and sharing the same database has extremely reliable high-speed Internet. If your Internet goes down a lot on one or more of your computers, you could easily lose work when using this service.

This service has some of the advantages of traditional web-based (also called cloud-based) software run through web browsers. Namely, all users are accessing essentially the same copy of the database, which is stored on a server. However, it does not share a significant disadvantage of web-based software, which is that every access to the program's data has to be transmitted through the Internet, slowing them down significantly. We see that as a real issue for web-based programs doing things similar to what DONATION does, which more than anything else are used to do data entry. Of course, unlike most web-based software, only one computer can make changes to the database at a time when you use this service.

The only delays with the Cloud Storage Service are the downloading and uploading of your backup when you start and exit the program. The encrypted backup databases that are transferred are also compressed, to make them significantly smaller and faster to transmit over the Internet.

The security of this system is basically the same as that for Internet backups. (See Internet Backup Security for details.). For someone to access your data, they would have to either know your Unique ID for Internet backups, or have a copy of your database or one of its backups, and they would also have to know the strong password that you choose to use for the encryption of those backups. We have no ability to access your data unless you choose to give us both that Unique ID and the encryption password, or intentionally email us a database backup as part of a difficult to fix support problem.

Turning the Service On

This is turned on for your first computer by first setting up Internet Backups in the Backup/Restore ⇒ Backup Frequency and Options window, and then checking the Use the Cloud Storage Service checkbox. You will also have to fill in an email address in the field "Your Email Address for Cloud Storage Notifications", which should be different for each user/computer using the program. See the Help on that window for details.

Part of setting up Internet Backups is choosing a strong Internet Backup Encryption Password, that will have to be communicated to all users. If your organization has Limited, Read Only or Donors Only users with their own password, the Internet Backup Encryption Password should be different from the Program Entry Password used for full users. If you have no such limited users, you can also set the Program Entry Password to be the same as the Internet Backup Encryption Password, so that you only have to enter one password as you start the program. See Passwords in the Program for more details.

If you have already been transferring copies of your database between multiple installations of DONATION, or otherwise already have copies of the same database on multiple computers, be sure that you have the most up to date database first on the computer on which you first turn this service on, because it will then become the "official" copy when you exit the program.

Once you save that change, the service is turned on.

Sharing the Database with Other Users

To get the same change to other computers running DONATION, so that they are safely sharing the database with you, after you exit DONATION (which uploads the first Internet backup file), the safest approach is to restore any backup made from the first computer after Cloud Storage was turned on, to each other computer. See Transfer your Data between Computers for the various ways that can be done.

To add a user on a computer that doesn't have DONATION installed yet, just download and install the Standard version on that computer, from the DOWNLOAD page on the website, and restore a current backup as part of the initial startup.


Your Email Address for Cloud Storage Notifications

If you already have the Cloud Storage Service turned on in an earlier release than 4.23, and start the program in release 4.23 or higher for the first time, or you are a new user joining the Cloud Storage Service, you will be prompted to enter "Your Email Address for Cloud Storage notifications". That should be an email address unique to this computer (and presumably to the user who most commonly uses it) that the service can use for sending emails to you in certain circumstances. (Specifically, it will send you an email if you have somehow kept control of the database for over 18 hours, and another user accepts an option to break that control.)

If you also have multiple databases on your computer for which you use the Cloud Storage Service, the program will assume that you want to use the same email address for notifications for all of them. If you want a different email address to be used for one of them, you can go to the Backup/Restore ⇒ Backup Frequency and Options window when you are switched into that database, and enter a different email address there.

WARNING: The Program will Exit after Two Hours of Inactivity

Because no other user can get control of the database while you have control, you should exit DONATION when you are not using it. If you are using the Cloud Storage Service and you leave DONATION running for two hours without doing anything in it, it will automatically save your changes back to the cloud storage, release the control, and exit the program, so that others can use it. The program will of course tell you it has done that.

Please note that this automatic exiting after two hours of inactivity will also abandon any unsaved changes to a donor or a donation on the main window. So you should never leave the program alone for that long when you are in the middle of unsaved data entry! It will not exit, and thus abandon unsaved work, if you are in the Batch Entry window.

Troubleshooting Potential Problems and Situations

Of course because this service is Internet based, and at times the Internet is not completely reliable, things can go wrong. It's very important to carefully read any error messages that come up in the use of this service, and respond appropriately. If you have read the messages carefully and still cannot understand what is going on, please contact us immediately for assistance, informing us of the exact text of the messages you are seeing and as much as you can about the situation. See Screenshots for the best way to do this.

You should also make other backups periodically, beyond the ones being made automatically by the service, by using other Backup/Restore menu options. Only the last 3 manual Internet or automated Cloud Storage Service backups are retained on the Software4Nonprofits server.

The following table covers some of the other issues you might run into.

Problem or Situation


Another user has control of the database when you go to start DONATION:

The program will allow you to run read-only in that case, so that you can still view data and run reports, but you cannot enter new data, edit existing data, create receipts, or do anything else that alters the database in any way. You will also be given an option at that point of bringing down the latest backup from the server before you start running read-only.

Another user has had control for over 18 hours:

This will most likely indicate that something went wrong and the other user was unable to upload their database and release their control. If you are sure that is the case, you can accept the option that the program gives you to take over control from them, and continue with whatever was the latest backup on the server. This will mean that the other user's work from that session that was not exited properly will probably be lost. The other user will also receive an email about this if you do break their control.

You want to change your encryption password:

Use the new Maintenance ⇒ Change Password ⇒ Internet Backup Encryption Password menu option to change it. Be sure to inform all other users to immediately start using that new password the next time they run the program.

You use a Program Entry Password, and don't want to have to enter both it and the Encryption Password whenever you start DONATION:

You can make them both the same, in which case only the Program Entry Password will be prompted for. However, this means they will both have to be strong passwords as required for Internet Encryption passwords (at least 8 characters, including 3 of the four types: small letters, capital letters, numbers, and symbols).

In addition, if you also set up a Read-Only or Limited User password, it doesn't make sense for the Program Entry and Encryption passwords to be the same, because then your read-only or limited users, who still need to use the Encryption password when they start the program, will actually know the Program Entry Password, because it's the same! (The program may stop you from making them the same in that case, but whether it notices and stops you depends on the order in which you set the passwords up.)

Everyone forgets the Encryption Password:

On the computer on which you believe the most current copy of the database is present, just type in a different encryption password when you are prompted for it. The program will give you an option to change to that new password, and other options after that including one to have your current database become the new official one that is then uploaded when you exit. (Since you don't know the old password, there is no way you could download the current one from the server.)

You use the same Program Entry and Encryption password, and everyone forgets both:

You will need to contact us to get a reset of your Program Entry Password, which will get you into the program. Then you are in the same situation as in the previous point about forgetting the Encryption Password.

Someone else has changed the Encryption password and failed to tell you:

When you start up with the old Encryption password, it will fail, and give you some options. The best solution for you is to find out what the new password is from the other user, and use it! If that is impossible, one of the options the program gives you is to continue using the password you enter, and your current database, without downloading anything. Your current database then becomes the official one when you exit.

The program is telling you that you are using a different Encryption password from the last time.

This can be because of what's in the previous row of this table (someone else changed the password) or because you accidentally changed it the last time you used it, and are now using an older password (which may or may not be the correct one). Just decide whether what you entered is correct, or whether you need to change to a different one (for instance if another user changed it, and you want to stick with their change) and answer the questions the program asks appropriately. Answer Yes to the messagebox that comes up to stick with what you entered, or No to try again with a different password.

All computers running DONATION die, and you don't know how to regain access to your data:

When you first set up Internet Backups (required prior to turning on the Cloud Storage Solution) you were prompted to both print off and email to Software4Nonprofits the Unique ID for Internet Backups. If you have done one or both of those things, you can resume using those backups by re-installing DONATION on new computers, and restoring the latest backup using that Unique ID and your Encryption password. (We can tell you the Unique ID if you don't have the printout, but did email it to us. You do have to know the Encryption password - we cannot recover it.)

You want to stop using the Cloud Storage Service:

Just turn it off, on all computers running DONATION, through the Backup/Restore ⇒ Backup Frequency and Options window, and then go back to some other method of sharing your database, if you still need DONATION on multiple computers.

If you cannot turn it off because your database is coming up read only because you cannot successfully connect to the cloud storage service, one work-around is to download and install the Local Network Server version from the DOWNLOAD page on the website,, on top of what you have now, then run it, which gives a message saying that cloud storage isn't allowed with that version and it will be turned off. (You can ignore the message, when you run the Local Network Server, that you aren't licensed for it.) Then download and install the Standard version again, on top of what you have now, and cloud storage will still be turned off.

Your Internet is down when you want to start DONATION:

You will be given three options: to get the Internet connection up and and try again, to exit the program, or to run read-only.

Your Internet is down when you go to exit DONATION:

You will not be able to upload the backup or release the control. Get your Internet connection working again, then restart DONATION, make any sort of change to your data, and exit it again, in order to do the upload and release the control.

You enter the program with a Limited User password:

The Cloud Storage Service works normally, and you have the normal limitations of such users.

You enter the program with Read Only password:

The Cloud Storage Service gives you an option to download the latest backup for you when you start, but it doesn't bother uploading when you exit, since you could not have changed anything. Also, you do not take control of the server database, so other users can run at the same time.

You use multiple databases with the Database Switch Databases menu option:

Each database can have its own Cloud Storage (or not). When you switch from a database that has the service turned on to another one, the program first behaves as if you were exiting, by uploading the backup and releasing the control. Then it starts up on the new database, as if you were entering the program, taking control and downloading the backup (assuming that database also has Cloud Storage turned on, of course).

Your computers have become out of synchronization with each other.

This can happen very occasionally if something goes wrong, where the Cloud Storage Service seems to be working but the computers aren't synchronizing properly, so one of them has newer data than the other(s).

The best solution is to actually copy the database file from the one with the most up-to-date data to the other computer.

That file lives in the Data subdirectory of the program's Data Directory, and its name is DONATION4.DB (unless you are Switching Databases, in which case the extension may be different from ".DB", depending on which your databases is having the problem).

Note: Both when you are copying the database out of one computer (either to a USB memory key, or to attach it to an email) and when you are copying it back onto other computers, you cannot be running DONATION at the same time.


This topic was last edited on Feb 17, 2023