Vendor selection a key aspect of successful federal cloud integration

As 2015 comes into view, it's a safe bet that cloud integration among federal agencies will accelerate tremendously in the new year. Virtually every department has by this point begun to leverage cloud services in some capacity, and most are eager to expand upon these earlier successes. In some areas, such as the Department of Defense, organizations will soon gain greater independence and control over their cloud strategies, rather than relying on their overarching departments to choose and deploy this technology.

As a result, numerous agency leaders will essentially need to build their new cloud architecture from scratch. For decision-makers embarking on this process, there are many factors to take into consideration. Arguably the most important, though, may be vendor selection. As FedScoop contributor Susie Adams recently highlighted, no two cloud solutions are the same, and picking the right vendor will have a major impact on the ultimate success or failure of federal cloud integration efforts.

The right partner
According to Adams, there are several key features that agency decision-makers should look for when evaluating potential cloud partners. First, the vendor's cloud solutions must be able to integrate with the organization's existing applications. Second, the cloud offering must be scalable enough to meet agency needs well into the future. Finally, and most importantly, the offerings must be completely reliable and secure.

The writer went on to note that there are a tremendous number of cloud vendors in the market today, but not all of them can meet any or all of these stipulations. Decision-makers must be very careful to thoroughly evaluate every potential vendor to determine its strengths and weaknesses in these areas.

Security matters
Considering how much of a concern cybersecurity is and should be for agencies' cloud strategies, decision-makers must devote particular attention to assessing vendors' security capabilities and policies.

Adams drew particular attention to the issue of encryption. Encryption can be a powerful tool for ensuring that sensitive data remains protected even in the event that it falls into the hands of cybercriminals or other unauthorized individuals. While not a sufficient cybersecurity strategy in and of itself, encryption can play a major role.

However, the writer pointed out some cloud vendors seem to utilize data encryption effectively at first glance, but in reality fail to apply these strategies comprehensively. Notably, some cloud vendors' encryption efforts do not apply to both data at rest and data in transit. This can create serious vulnerabilities for those service providers' clients. 

There are similar potential oversights and missteps in all of the other key areas Adams highlighted. Many cloud vendors will claim to offer flexible scalability and easy application integration, but the reality of the situation is often more complicated and less satisfactory. Agency leaders need to look closely at the actual policies and infrastructure in place at the various vendors in order to ascertain the reliability and effectiveness of the different cloud options they are considering.

Integration support
Of course, conducting a thorough, technical evaluation of a cloud vendor is easier said than done. Even a seasoned IT professional in the government sector will be unlikely to have much experience comparing cloud solutions, much less deploying or maintaining those services. 

That is why it can be so valuable for federal agencies to work with third-party cloud integration specialists when pursuing new cloud solutions. These firms can provide the expertise and insight necessary to evaluate the various options available, ensuring that agencies select the most appropriate, secure cloud services for their specific short-term and long-term goals.