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INDUSTRY INSIGHT

Staying Cloud Smart in remote work environments

The massive increase in telework since March has forced federal agencies to rethink and renew their focus on digital transformation. While the Office of Personnel Management’s 2019 Status of Telework in the Federal Government report showed only 22% of the federal workforce was teleworking during fiscal year 2018, up to 90% of workers at certain agencies are now eligible to work from home. 

While it’s still uncertain what federal offices will look like this fall, the benefits of continued remote work -- and its achievability for government -- are clear. The accelerated multicloud migration and digital transformation that have enabled this reality will have lasting impacts. 

When accommodating remote work, selecting the right cloud environment is of utmost importance. It’s been about a year since the Cloud Smart strategy was introduced as roadmap for agencies to achieve their missions through a thoughtful approach to cloud environments. The pandemic may have accelerated agency digital transformation, but the strategy was already driving progress. In response to a March 2020 study of public sector IT decision makers, 71% of federal respondents agreed that Cloud Smart was driving cloud adoption. And it has an impact -- 82% of feds expect Cloud Smart to be integral to their organizations’ success.

Cloud Smart’s push toward multiple cloud environments offers agencies the flexibility to rethink IT in terms of their workloads and specific mission needs. Cloud is not a destination, it’s an operating model that should be adjusted to address evolving needs.  As remote work increases, integrating multiple clouds is critical and allows agencies to easily scale depending on workload and provide the transparency needed to enhance security.

The rapid shift to mandatory remote work illustrated the immediate benefits of flexible hybrid and multicloud environments. Most agencies have a mix of public and private clouds. In an office environment it’s easy to cross-pollinate, but a remote workforce often struggles sharing data between the two, unless using an effective hybrid approach. Agencies run both private and non-sensitive workloads on a daily basis, making a hybrid-cloud approach a universal best practice. This hybrid approach keeps data secure and accessible, while providing consistency across public, private and edge environments.

With an exponential increase in the number of devices connecting to agency resources via the cloud, flexible environments kept missions running. Scalability became more important than ever to ensure essential government missions could continue. Experiences during the pandemic are even leading lawmakers to consider expanding working from home in normal situations.

Beyond enabling telework, emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and edge computing increase the need for flexibility. According to a 2018 Gartner report, around 10% of enterprise-generated data was created and processed outside a traditional centralized data center or cloud. By 2022, the firm predicted this figure will reach 75%. As the use of sensors and embedded devices increases and possibilities of AI expand, the need for processing and insights without a network connection is rapidly growing, meaning edge computing must be considered as a part of an agency’s IT infrastructure.

Operating in multiple-cloud environments also accommodates changing security needs. Government’s rapid shift to remote work could easily have introduced cybersecurity challenges if sensitive information was in the wrong environment. As agencies made this transition, the ability to move certain workloads to public clouds, while keeping others on premises, was critical.

Today, digital transformation and hybrid cloud enable continuity of government missions during the greatest and most unexpected crisis of our time. But by connecting agencies with the insights they need more reliably, effectively and securely, this approach will also help save lives on the battlefield and improve the processes that allow the government to serve citizens more effectively. 

Cloud Smart guidance came at a critical time, becoming essential during its first year. When utilized correctly, Cloud Smart will ensure the protection of classified information and maximize the efficient use of agency resources. The future presents an opportunity for even more significant transformation and the adoption of new technologies that will further government missions.

About the Author

Cameron Chehreh is CTO of Dell Technologies Federal Systems.

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