Why should governments move to the cloud?
Making the shift to the cloud should be a primary component of any city or county’s digital transformation initiative. For the unfamiliar, a cloud service is a hosted technology solution that is accessible to verified users anytime, anywhere. In short, it’s a simple approach to software that relieves organizations from the worry of data centers, servers, databases, upgrades and updates.
Cloud providers – aka software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendors – use hosted, off-site data centers to manage applications and data on behalf of organizations, while offering appealing service-level agreements to ensure data and systems are properly maintained and safeguarded. Examples of a cloud service can be a hosted application, database processing, database backups, managed technical support and more.
The price of cloud services continues to decline as new, competing vendors and technologies enter the environment. These developments have made cloud solutions more accessible than ever, and there are many reasons why organizations in the public sector should make the move sooner rather than later.
So, what are the benefits of moving to the cloud?
Cost Savings: In public sector, where budgets are consistently tight, the financial benefits of moving to the cloud and/or implementing cloud solutions are undeniable. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, more than half of government data centers have closed in recent years, citing various sources of cost savings – including downstream financial benefits – as the primary driver.
Selecting a SaaS vendor to take care of specific needs – like workforce management, payroll, enterprise resource planning (ERP), or analytics – is a viable option for organizations seeking to achieve their operational goals without exceeding capital equipment budgets or placing additional demands on in-house IT staff. Data centers, for example, require a large staff to manage. By choosing a hosted-solution, governments can significantly reduce IT overhead. The federal government has saved over $3.6 billion by consolidating data centers and shifting to the cloud.
Security: With cyberattacks becoming more and more common, moving valuable personnel data – including time and attendance data – to a secure cloud platform is a wise option for governments. Doing so can help departments prevent possible loss of data and offers protection against accusations of mishandling employee and constituent data. Choosing vendors with high levels of verified security (SOC1, SOC2, ISO27001) gives peace of mind that data will be protected, no matter what. The cloud will not rebuild on-premise systems, but it provides a trustworthy means to easily recover data that has been properly backed up.
Emergency Preparedness: According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), nearly 40 percent of small businesses never reopen their doors following a disaster. That’s simply not an option for governments—your department must be resilient. Therefore, there needs to be a plan for recovery in the event of a crippling disaster. When cities or counties make the decision to operate in the cloud, their data is not subject to the same risk factors that were once a critical liability in the event of a natural disaster. Whereas the use of on-premise datacenters and applications put continuity at risk, the cloud provides the ability to maintain uptime and continuously operate—no matter the present conditions in a given location or region.
Making the move towards cloud solutions often requires an up-front investment, but the benefits that organizations achieve from the shift can help justify the expenditure. Addressing each of the benefits and challenges of cloud computing can’t be captured in a single article, but organizations should thoroughly asses their current systems and decide for themselves if there are efficiencies to be gained. A successful cloud migration requires a well-thought-out deployment that considers all the applications and processes an organization makes use of, as well as a trusted cloud partner to help navigate the transition.
Michael Galello is the manager of the public sector group at Kronos Incorporated.