Building a realistic cloud vision in government

With a hybrid cloud environment, agencies can practically gain everything they originally wanted to get from the cloud -- without having to venture onto potentially unsecure or unproven ground.

Think about the average government organization. It's large, often made up of fragmented component agencies, operates on limited budgets and is constantly challenged to improve collaboration across siloed departments. You’d be hard-pressed to dream up a better use case for cloud technology.

Yet at the dawn of the cloud era, the best that the cloud had to offer seemed completely out of the reach of government due to the nature of the data agencies handle and the services they provide. Between strict data sovereignty requirements and firm security rules for solutions adopted by individual agencies, the barriers appeared insurmountable.

Now, that’s all changing. The Office of Management and Budget's "Cloud Smart" strategy moves beyond encouraging agencies to adopt cloud to providing guidance specific to security, procurement and the workforce skills necessary to foster greater cloud adoption and implementation.

Governments at all levels are eager to embrace the cloud and gain the same benefits that private-sector enterprises enjoy. But despite advances in cloud technology and major improvements to the overall security of public cloud solutions, significant concerns remain.

Agencies jumping into the cloud and modernizing their operations must set realistic goals and approach their transformation with an achievable vision, keeping the essentially governmental qualities that distinguish them from private enterprises top of mind.

Government cloud adoption hits tipping point

In a 2018 update of its report, "Understanding Cloud Adoption in Government," Gartner reported that almost half of all government organizations were actively using cloud services. What was more surprising, however, was that government cloud spending was already on par with private-sector organizations.

Agencies have a simple route to get to a secure cloud environment, thanks to the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, which ensures all organizations comply with a standardized framework.

Frameworks play a vital role in avoiding security incidents and potential cloud-based data disasters that can arise when agencies make their own cloud decisions. But what about state and local government agencies that don’t have similar frameworks available? For them, cloud success is by no means guaranteed and requires careful decision-making.

Three tips for government cloud success

1. Consider investments carefully. For agencies looking for reliability and predictable results, it pays to work with trusted partners. Major cloud service providers (CSPs) such as Oracle, AWS and Microsoft have offerings created specifically for government organizations, making them a great source for common cloud services.

Because agencies rarely have the budget to take a "fail fast" experimentation approach when it comes to the cloud, they must make the right choices the first time. The best way to do that is by choosing proven solutions from globally renowned partners.

2. Think connectivity first. When agencies build a cloud strategy in government, they can’t just think about which services they want to connect; they must also carefully consider how they're going to connect to them. The connectivity option agencies choose can have serious data security implications, which can ultimately determine the viability of the entire cloud strategy.

In some cases where agenices are up against strict data sovereignty requirements, a managed cloud connectivity partner can help them connect to cloud services in other geographies using only U.S. based data centers. These partners can also help agencies privately connect to trusted CSPs, improving the reliability, visibility and security of cloud connectivity.

3. View hybrid cloud as the goal, not a stepping stone. Unsurprisingly, government remains one of the biggest users of private cloud services. Applications with highly personal data and strict data sovereignty requirements remain difficult to move to the public cloud confidently. And before those final workloads and datasets can make the move, agencies will need to see changes in both the security of the cloud and in the laws and regulations that govern what they can store where.

But that isn’t as much of a speed bump as some may think. Hybrid cloud can deliver incredible results in government, and for what most organizations want to achieve, there isn’t much need to look beyond it. By approaching hybrid cloud in a considered, controlled way, governments can practically gain everything they originally wanted to get from the cloud -- without having to venture onto potentially unsecure or unproven ground.

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