When Tom Hamel became the director of operations for Generations Inc, the literacy nonprofit was poised to expand its programs by 600 percent. It was finally time to get rid of the poster board on the wall where staff had been recording student-mentor matches. Generations Incorporated needed a database.

But that was the least of its technology worries. Office computers were painfully slow and ridden with viruses. Staff members had resorted to printing every document in fear that their...

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