Despite progress, obstacles remain for federal cloud integration

Cloud integration is no longer a wild, high-tech gamble for federal agencies. On the contrary, it is quickly becoming the standard option for new IT services. While the Cloud First initiative forces department decision-makers to look to the cloud initially, the fact of the matter is that many agency leaders are now choosing the cloud even when they could stick with on-premise legacy solutions. This means that cloud computing has overcome one of the single biggest barriers to broader federal adoption: leaders' trepidation about the security of the technology.

However, this is not the only impediment standing in the way of cloud integration among government agencies. As Federal Times contributor Kirk Kern recently highlighted, there are still a number of obstacles that must be overcome before the federal government can take full advantage of cloud solutions.

Cybersecurity standards
Security worries have always been the most commonly cited reason for organizations, both public and private sector, to delay cloud adoption efforts. For a long while, many people believed that the cloud was inherently less secure than legacy alternatives. In reality, though, both cloud and on-premise options can be either secure or vulnerable, depending on the steps taken to protect these environments. With the right approach, a cloud platform can be just as secure, or even more secure, than an on-site counterpart.

Yet as Kern pointed out, this does not mean that the question of cloud cybersecurity is now a settled matter. To ensure that sensitive government data remains safe while moving to and from different cloud environments, significant security precautions are essential.

The writer noted that a recent MeriTalk survey found that only one-fifth of participating IT professionals had complete confidence in their cloud vendor's security capabilities. 

For cloud integration to advance among federal agencies, government IT professionals will need to develop new, superior strategies for protecting their information, Kern explained.

"Addressing this challenge is not easy, but leveraging solutions that can, for example, secure data at rest and create data fabrics that can be used to control and protect the flow of information across multiple cloud service providers represent significant steps in the right direction," Kern wrote.

The path to cloud
Another key obstacle to greater federal cloud integration, according to the author, is simply the issue of how to go about embracing these solutions. Kern pointed out that while federal decision-makers are now fairly well aware of the advantages cloud services have to offer, they are far less familiar with the best practices needed to effectively migrate to a cloud platform.

The writer went on to identify five key phases that agencies must adhere to in order to ensure the success of their cloud integration efforts: evaluating existing infrastructure, choosing a methodology, selecting a cloud service provider, moving data to cloud environments and measuring the impact of these efforts. Overlooking any of these stages will quite possibly undermine the advantages that the cloud can offer, and lead to a variety of performance and security complications.

Support needed
The takeaway from Kern's article is that while federal agencies have made significant progress toward achieving cloud integration, there is still a long way to go before agencies are fully taking advantage of these resources. Furthermore, the path ahead will not be an easy one, as there are numerous issues that must be addressed to ensure the safety, efficiency and effectiveness of federal cloud efforts.

For these reasons, federal agencies should seriously consider turning to third-party cloud integration specialists. These firms can offer guidance informed by years of experience – experience that most government IT teams simply do not have. A consulting firm can provide both a comprehensive plan for cloud migration and ongoing oversight to ensure success.