Cloud Computing as a Cultural Evolution in Government


Many governments still haven’t switched over to cloud computing. Let’s look at why cloud is advantageous and factors that have made “cloud-first” policies challenging to realize.

  • Objective: Less Governmental Waste
  • Benefits and Concerns of Cloud Computing for Government Offices
  • What’s the Holdup?
  • Making the Switch

Objective: Less Governmental Waste

In the 2016 US presidential race, we see a lot of discussion of education, healthcare, and the economy, but not much on the topic of real structural changes to streamline the federal system. The best way for government to become more efficient is to look at the technology that has disrupted and ultimately strengthened businesses throughout the marketplace.

The pressure on government agencies to provide better services within strict budgets has always prompted governments to consider ways to work together. The ability of organizations to foster collaboration got a major boost with the rise of the cloud, mobile devices, and social apps. These tools allow federal agencies to develop ideas and programs internally – branching out to affiliates, vendors, and the general public as desired.

Now, these technologies have been helpful to government departments, but the transition has also been tricky, notes Morten Brøgger in Government Technology. It’s been difficult to use the cloud for collaboration while giving balanced consideration toward security concerns and the desire to build systems that are affordable yet robust. “In other words, tools cannot compromise on ease of use when programs are increasingly being evaluated and funded based on the public’s and employees’ experience,” says Brøgger.

The biggest priorities for government are cloud computing, infrastructure, and analytics, according to renowned research firm Gartner. However, governmental entities have been slow to transition to the cloud.

When decision-makers feel unsure about cloud, it’s helpful to remember that standards have been created to independently gauge the crediblity of providers and their legitimacy to back federal services. You want to use partners that are fully compliant with the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) and have SSAE 16 audited datacenters, meeting checks and balances established by the American Society of CPAs.

Benefits and Concerns of Cloud Computing for Government Offices

It’s obvious in certain ways that a cloud transition would be an improvement. It would be easier to facilitate projects between two or more agencies and to manage vendors. It would even make it easier for the staff to share files and make them broadly accessible to the team or even themselves on different devices. The Gartner assessment notes that, for these reasons and others, CIOs in the private sector are increasingly in favor of cloud.

However, very few government IT chiefs are truly using a “cloud-first” perspective. That’s backed up by a study released in January 2015 by MeriTalk, highlighted in Federal Times. The study found that three out of four federal IT decision-makers (75%) would like to move to cloud but don’t want to lose control of the infrastructure. Meanwhile, nearly one in four (23%) said they were wary about cloud hosting providers. Another 32% said that they had to stick with the legacy approach because of data sovereignty and security requirements.

A 2014 survey from Market Connections highlighted additional ways that government agencies are able to benefit from cloud. In fact, the survey found that those who did make the switch actually listed security as one of the reasons for their choice. They also said that it was more affordable. Three in five respondents said that using cloud was more cost-effective than running servers on-premises.

What’s the Holdup?

In recent years, both the United States and United Kingdom governments have publicly committed to moving to the cloud as quickly as possible. However, the transition that was expected has not taken place.

The reason action has been slow is that CIOs are concerned about security precautions.

Among CIOs who took part in the Gartner 2015 CIO Agenda report, fully nine out of ten believe that digital environments “[create] new types and increased levels of risk in government,” Brøgger explains. “In addition, government CIOs are hampered by complex legacy IT environments that must be simplified and modernized.”

There is a lot of unsureness. Only 37% of United Kingdom government workers feel confident in cloud systems, an aversion that is probably similar in the United States. People want to avoid the challenges of cloud, which include reviewing providers’ security parameters, blocking out a time to shift to the new environment, and a sense of lacking the appropriate insights or skills for deployment and management.

The issue is that many government projects are interdepartmental or are shared between agencies.  Without secure cloud systems, less secure or time-consuming approaches (such as email) are being used instead.

Making the Switch

CIOs at government agencies should first be aware that “cloud is a cultural revolution, as well as a technological evolution,” comments Brøgger. It’s critical to address the issue of security head-on. “A frontline lack of trust in cloud security is the fundamental Achilles’ heel of the wider and faster adoption of public-sector cloud services,” he says.

As discussed above, part of the hesitation to transition to cloud is because of unsureness about particular providers. However, you can feel confident when you work with a provider that is compliant with guidelines and standards established by the federal government and accounting industry.

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