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INDUSTRY INSIGHT

4 steps to public-sector cloud migration

In the past decade, cloud computing has exerted a significant impact on the U.S. business environment. Companies have embraced the cloud as a mechanism to cut costs, become more agile and scale resources up and down according to need. In fact, a recent IDC survey found that improved manageability, less maintenance and lower cost of service are a few of the top reasons why organizations are now embracing cloud infrastructures. Total spending on cloud crossed $38 billion in 2016 -- a small sliver of the overall $1.5 trillion computing figure but still a sizeable figure for such a young technology.

Despite the benefits of cloud computing, government agencies have been slow to adopt cloud computing. Many organizations in the public sector have been hesitant to make the leap, primarily because of privacy concerns, tight budgets and regulatory requirements. But that’s changing as many state and local government agencies are starting to move on cloud projects.

With momentum building, agencies that are looking to get started on cloud projects should keep in mind these best practices.

1. Accept migration challenges. First of all, understand that migration is going to cause some disruption in operational processes and costs.

To save money down the line, agencies may endure a temporary IT cost spikes. Cloud migration is what people sometimes call a “high-involvement process” -- making a fundamental shift from one paradigm to another. In the past, IT was paid as a fixed asset to maintain; now funding IT is a pay-as-you-go operational cost in the cloud. This change requires additional IT staff training, the implementation of new business processes and the modification of existing business processes.

This may seem daunting at first, but in the long run, migrating to the cloud will allow public-sector organizations to devote fewer resources to daily tasks like maintenance so they can focus teams on more important things like IT flexibility, collaboration, security, services and increasing innovation.

2. Develop a game plan. One of the pitfalls of moving to the cloud is that no organization is immune to risk, and with a new environment human error may play a larger role. Agencies must have confidence in the security, safety and reliability of cloud computing in order for its services to be effective.  

To prepare IT teams to assess risks and plan for any type of surprise that they might come across, public-sector organizations should implement a game plan that starts with identifying  which applications should be migrated to the cloud. Agencies should consider applications that are running on legacy or underutilized infrastructure or that are well suited for public cloud such as database, high-performance or analytic workloads. 

3. Break down on-premises costs. Some applications are more resource intensive than others. Understanding the cost of running applications on-premises can help determine which applications are more cost effective to run in the cloud. Factors to consider include labor cost, network usage, server utilization and the physicl space occupied by IT infrastructure.

After deciding which applications to migrate, agencies should look for cost savings opportunities offered by cloud providers. Amazon Web Services, for example, offers agencies a 72 percent discount in the GovCloud Region and up to 75 percent in other Regions, if they lock in their EC2 purchases up front for three years.

4. Take the plunge. When are you ready to take the plunge? You’ll know when taken the following steps: You’ve evaluated your applications, you’ve gained a level of understanding about the costs associated with your cloud configuration and you’ve scoped out the resources to manage the ongoing costs from a cloud provider.

When new resources need to be provisioned, the cloud lets government agencies circumvent long procurement processes. Moreover, organizations will always have access to the most up-to-date technologies without having to implement new upgrades or deal with any other maintenance procedures.

Cloud services give agencies a way to scale as demand for services grows, and they can help save money delivering existing programs and services and in implementing new ones.

Conclusion

Cloud adoption in the public sector is steadily growing. Using some of the many modern cloud services on the market, organizations with heightened sensitivity to security and compliance concerns can safely migrate mission-critical applications to the public cloud and maintain the same levels of policy and governance that they require to operate. For those progressive government agencies that are paving the way today, choosing a sound migration strategy is vital to their success.

About the Author

John Purcell is vice president, products, at CloudHealth Technologies.

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