Carefully considered policies essential for smooth federal cloud integration

Cloud integration is one of the most important IT trends now occurring throughout the federal government. Virtually every agency relies on the cloud to some capacity, or at the very least is in the process of planning a cloud deployment. 

Yet there are still hurdles to this process, with the most significant probably being security. While numerous industry experts have demonstrated time and again that cloud computing is not inherently any less secure than legacy solutions, and can actually prove far better for protecting organizations' data and other assets, many government leaders continue to harbor concerns in this realm. Such concerns, while often overblown, are still legitimate, especially considering the scope and number of recent cybersecurity incidents among federal agencies. 

To achieve cloud integration in spite of these cybersecurity issues, agencies need to develop cautious, thorough policies, as Federal Times contributor Marty Heinrich recently asserted.

Noting needs
One of the most basic and important steps that agency leaders should take in order to ensure the security of their cloud solutions, the writer explained, is evaluating organization requirements. While every agency will have somewhat similar needs in this area, no two departments will be exactly the same. Without a specific understanding of the agency's unique requirements, the cloud solution is unlikely to deliver the best possible security.

Specifically, Heinrich emphasized the need for cloud integration policies that account for compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act and National Archives and Records Administration rules, retention requirements and privacy controls. 

The writer also pointed out the importance of determining agency cloud architecture needs. He noted that private cloud deployments provide greater information security control to organizations than public cloud solutions. However, it is important to note that the public cloud is usually the more affordable option. Considering federal IT budgets, cost is an important factor. This means that agency leaders need to understand their specific security needs, rather than defaulting to private cloud options.

The right partners
Another key strategy for achieving cloud security in the federal government, according to Heinrich, is choosing the right cloud partners. A common misconception regarding the cloud is that every vendor is essentially the same, with the primary differences concerning cost. In reality, though, there is a great amount of diversity in this area, with some vendors specializing in cost, scalability, customization and, crucially, security. Picking the right vendor will inevitably go a long way toward ensuring that agency's cloud environments remain safe.

To this end, the writer emphasized the need to thoroughly vet potential cloud providers, ensuring that their references check out and they have all necessary security certifications to verify their capabilities. 

Furthermore, it is critical for agencies to work with third-party cloud integration service providers to fully guarantee the security of their cloud deployments. The cloud integration process can be incredibly intricate and fraught for government agencies, especially those that lack IT departments with robust cloud experience. In these cases, a third-party firm can prove essential for delivering a secure, integrated cloud environment.