Look before you leap: How to evaluate cloud solutions

06 March 2012 | Kellie Ann Chainier, Director of Office Regulatory and Policy Strategy, Worldwide Public Sector

As public sector organizations consider moving to the cloud, there are a number of factors they should evaluate before making a decision. From accessibility and records retention to email archiving and security, governments need to ask the right questions to make sure they comply with regulations and support citizen services. That’s why Microsoft just released a white paper titled, "Look Before You Leap Into Google Apps." The paper describes some of the hidden costs of Google Apps and helps readers evaluate cloud computing solutions that meet their specific public sector needs.

An accessible cloud product is just as important as a physically-accessible building, in that it must provide the same experiences and opportunities to all citizens. Say that you’re visually impaired and need to learn which documents are needed to obtain a passport. By using Microsoft’s built-in accessibility tools like high-contrast mode and visually impaired settings, you can consume information more easily and spend less time searching. So governments may want to consider how accessibility features help those with disabilities perform the tasks necessary to be part of society, and how these features help organizations comply with accessibility laws and regulations in their area.

Records retention can be another big challenge for governments. They must ensure that documents, files, emails, instant messaging chats, and the metadata associated with the content to be archived meet compliance mandates, and there are several factors public sector organizations should consider. Will the cloud solution maintain the document’s format if transferred to another data source? If a user deletes an email, will a record of that email still exist? Are essential elements of content retained, like electronic signatures and page numbers?

Finally, when evaluating cloud solutions, one of the most important areas of focus should be security. Look for providers who build security into their products’ entire development cycle – from software development to service operations. Not only does this protect sensitive data and help prevent breaches, but it can also significantly reduce costs. For example, Malaysia’s Employees Provident Fund cut costs by 12 percent annually using Microsoft Office 365, simply because it no longer needed separate, third-party security solutions.

Productivity solutions like Google Apps may seem shiny on the surface, but hidden costs for features like accessibility, records retention, and security can quickly dull the sheen. To learn more about these costly add-ons and what to look for in a cloud solution, I invite you to read the white paper.

Have a comment or opinion on this post? Let me know @Microsoft_Gov. Have a question for the author? Please e-mail us at ongovernment@microsoft.com.

Kellie Ann Chainier
Director of Office Regulatory and Policy Strategy, Worldwide Public Sector

About the Author

Kellie Ann Chainier | Director of Office Regulatory and Policy Strategy, Worldwide Public Sector

Kellie Ann leads global cloud strategy for worldwide public sector. She specializes in risk management (privacy, security, compliance, and business continuity) and supports policy makers worldwide with developing frameworks for cloud consumption.