Over the past few years, my conversations with public-sector leaders show a dramatic shift toward cloud computing. Government organizations, large and small, must balance shrinking budgets with growing demands from citizens, while striving to stay innovative and deliver excellent citizen services.
To meet this challenge, governments around the world are turning to cloud computing to save money and create a more modern, efficient IT infrastructure, as my colleague Joel Cherkis recently noted. In a ZDNet article, Forrester’s Gene Cao said that in China alone, 20+ government agencies are planning to build cloud data centers. And IDC’s Chris Morris pointed out that it’s becoming increasingly common for government organizations to encourage a cloud strategy, as has been the case in Australia and Bulgaria.
While cloud computing holds enormous promise for the public sector, there are a few challenges. Here are the three key concerns I see and some strategies for addressing them.
: As I've previously discussed
, security is a huge concern. Public-sector agencies possess some of the most sensitive data in the world, and making sure that information is protected – at rest and in motion – is a top priority. Fortunately, there are security certifications and requirements to ensure this is the case, and your organization should work closely with cloud vendors to understand how their solutions meet these requirements. Microsoft offers detailed information about product privacy, regulatory compliance, and security through its Trust Center websites, such as the Office 365 Trust Center
: Another major hurdle may be overcoming cultural challenges within your group. For instance, some agencies are resistant to new computing models because they like to “do things like they’ve always been done,” or claim that the technology is still unproven or untested. Others are used to keeping data in their own individual data center, and are hesitant to host it in a shared environment. Your IT team should address any cultural barriers by providing examples of cloud successes in government, such as Albania’s National Agency for the Information Society
, which increased employee productivity by 70 percent by embracing the cloud, or the Government of Ontario
, which significantly improved efficiency, utilization of shared services and scalability by switching to a private cloud.
: Cloud computing has several models, including public, private, and hybrid, and deciding which is the best fit for your organization may seem daunting. Each model offers distinct benefits, and you should be thorough in your research and conversations with cloud providers. To help organizations determine which solution best meets their needs, Microsoft recently released a white paper
that helps you evaluate the differences between offerings, and points out the hidden costs associated with some cloud solutions. One of the best things about Microsoft's model: You don’t have to choose "all or nothing" for a cloud strategy. For example, 90 percent of your agency's email could be in the cloud and 10 percent still remain on-premise.
Cloud computing can be a huge step forward in modernizing infrastructure, streamlining services, and helping the business of government run more efficiently. To learn more about what to look for in a cloud offering, check out my "Look before you leap" blog.