Public sector cloud integration delivering major benefits

Recent months have seen a significant increase in federal focus on cloud integration efforts. There is a growing awareness among government leaders that the cloud is quickly becoming an essential resource for departments of all kinds, and any hesitation to fully embrace the technology will hamper agencies' abilities.

The benefits of federal cloud integration have been tremendous, and there's far more value available, as Teresa Carlson, vice president of the global public sector for Amazon Web Services, recently told theCUBE.

Cloud advantage
According to Carlson, cloud integration throughout the federal government has allowed agencies to significantly streamline operations, saving money and delivering more value for agencies of all kinds.

To a large degree, this is attributable primarily to the fact that cloud services are available in a pay-as-you-go model. Government agencies consist of large, complex bureaucracies, making it difficult for decision-makers to accurately gauge IT and other tech-related needs. This, along with accountability issues, can easily lead to major over-investment. Alternatively, limited IT budgets can force agencies to invest in solutions that quickly prove insufficient for meeting growing user demand, thereby forcing departments to go through costly upgrades sooner than would be desired.

Thanks to the cloud's scalability, and the fact that it does not require much in the way of on-site equipment, it is easy for federal agencies to maximize their IT efficiency while simultaneously improving performance and adding capabilities.

The security hurdle
Considering the advantages that cloud computing can deliver, it may seem surprising that federal cloud integration efforts did not begin earlier and have yet to reach a broader degree of adoption. While there are undoubtedly a number of factors at play, among the most significant were cybersecurity concerns. In both the private and public sectors, decision-makers have harbored worries about the viability of cloud environments for storing sensitive, valuable information. 

Now, though, these concerns have largely receded, especially in the federal government. As Carlson explained, this trend is largely thanks to the CIA's cloud integration efforts. Last year, the CIA awarded a $600 million contract to Amazon to build a dedicated cloud platform for the intelligence agency. This acted as a signal to many other federal organizations.

"A lot of people woke up that the intelligence community is looking at cloud and if they say it's secure, why shouldn't we be looking at cloud?" said Carlson, theCUBE reported.

Such reasoning is very warranted. Many of the earlier cloud cybersecurity concerns were based on misconceptions or a simple fear of the unfamiliar. A lot of IT leaders and other decision-makers incorrectly assumed that the cloud was inherently less secure than on-premise alternatives. In reality, both legacy and cloud solutions have the potential to be extremely secure, so long as they are approached in the right way. After all, without a well-considered, carefully designed cybersecurity strategy, no IT solution can be safe, cloud-related or otherwise. 

Getting secure
That raises the question of how agencies can ensure that their cloud solutions are and remain safe. 

Unfortunately, there are a number of obstacles that can make achieving this goal difficult. For one thing, many employees are simply not familiar with cloud computing services, and consequently may engage in risky practices unknowingly. For another, government agencies' IT teams typically lack the expertise necessary to build out and maintain a fully secure cloud solution.

For both of these problems, though, the solution may be a third-party cloud integration firm. These organizations can help government agencies to navigate the cloud adoption process, as well as maintain the security of these environments in the coming years. Furthermore, a third-party firm can provide education and training to help employees understand and adhere to best practices.