Local governments move to the cloud, why not federal?

The benefits of cloud integration are well-known by many businesses and organizations. They find that those computing models allow for reduced spending on hardware, software and even power supplies. Cloud infrastructure can provide IT professionals with more space for data management, increased ease when implementing new applications and additional computing resources to work with for improving productivity. Some local governments are gladly adapting to cloud integration and can see the benefits, but the federal government still has some reservations.

Benefiting from cloud integration
One benefit that is immediately apparent is the reduction of spending. Phil Bertolini, chief information officer of Oakland County in Michigan, told Governing that after financial problems, revenue streams became very tight for the local government. He took a look at cloud computing and discovered that it would be a great way to decrease costs while increasing the reliability of the county's infrastructure.

To add more incentives, Bertolini explained to the source that his calculations showed substantial savings, especially at a time when the county was performing data center consolidation. He estimated that 30 percent of the county's technology could be integrated with cloud solutions provided by partners that allow organizations to rent whatever capacity is required. This reduces costs for building and maintaining onsite data centers.

Other state governments have adopted cloud computing technology as well. Flint Waters, chief information officer of Wyoming, told Marketplace that the state has seen benefits such as higher quality servers and better data management and protection than the state has used in the past. The state's IT department rents space from a provider and receives support from what Waters called the "very best IT professionals." He added that there is no way Wyoming could provide better service than companies that manage data as a profession. It is secure too.

"Folks say, 'It's more secure because I control the server.' Well, yeah, but I can pick it up and walk out to my car with it. And that citizen data isn't secure anymore," Waters explained to Marketplace.

One concern for governments is how cloud computing would affect budgets as the services have different costs every month depending on resource allocation and the amounts of data being stored. Bertolini explained to Governing that agencies perform capital planning and strategize budgets well, but they are not as good at formulating operating budgets. Another concern lies in who owns the data.

"When your data is in a virtual world, you want to know who owns it, who has access to it, whether or not the provider is compliant with government regulations," Steve Emanuel, chief information officer of New Jersey, told Governing. "More important, what happens when you get divorced from the cloud provider? What are they going to do with my data? How am I going to be sure they erase everything from their servers? Government does not want to be exposed in any way."

Addressing concerns
At some point government agencies will need to address operating budgets. Without onsite data centers and the employees to run them, fiscal resources and staff members can be allocated toward cloud integration and data management partners. As technology changes, common practices need to adapt with them in order provide solutions for citizens and agencies' employees.

Governing reported that model agreements can solve the problems with data ownership. Governments can write contracts similar to how construction and other industry services work when hired by agencies to complete a task. Furthermore, legislation can influence who owns data. This will mitigate any issues in the future as more local and federal government agencies move their applications and data to the cloud.