US local government’s use of cloud computing

In a recent US survey 45 percent of Local Governments were found to be using cloud computing. The survey, conducted during the first two weeks of April by the nonprofit Public Technology Institute (PTI), aggregated the opinions of 93 local government IT executives in the US. I will start by outlining the main findings of the survey and end with some comments on these findings. Cloud computing

The findings revealed that an additional 19 percent of local governments plan to implement some form of cloud computing within the next 12 months, while 35 percent don’t intend to do so at all.

The top three reasons for moving to the cloud were;

  • Resource savings (staff time, maintenance and support): 87%
  • Features: 48%
  • Availability and uptime: 45%

For local governments that are currently using or plan to use the cloud, the top 3 applications being used in the cloud;

  • Web hosting/content delivery: 75%
  • Collaboration applications: 72%
  • E-mail: 58%

For organisations not using cloud computing services, the top 3 reasons given were;

  • Cost/lack of business case: 64%
  • Security: 55%
  • Waiting for other governments to take the lead, identify any issues and share their experience: 48%

Details on the survey are available at govtech.com.

As expected given the budget challenges facing Governments worldwide, the main driver for the use of cloud computing services is financial in terms of savings on resources. However it is interesting to see access to features being ranked by 48% in the survey. This is understandable given the multi-tenancy characteristic of cloud based services, whereby computing resources are shared by a set of tenants and this also facilitates the relatively quick deployment of new features. Collaboration in the cloud

When you look at the top three applications being used via the cloud, it is interesting to see the percentages using collaboration applications (72%) and email (58%), given the questions raised regarding data security and the importance of adhering to data protection regulations.

The survey doesn’t provide details on the nature of data that is being processed by these applications, so it could be a case where the organisations may not be fully aware that the applications are in the cloud, but also equally likely, the organisations could have completed a security and regulation assessment with their cloud services provider to ensure that best practices are being adhered to. Following on from the previous point on multi-tenancy and access to features, ‘features’ can include the latest application of security technology and processes.

In relation to the top three reasons for not proceeding with cloud based services, it is interesting to see cost and a lack of a business case ranked at 64%. We know that different approaches can be taken to cost benefits analyses, but it is being noted that in certain business circumstances, there may not be a business case for a complete transition to the cloud, but that a ‘cloud-bursting’ approach may be used.

Cloud-bursting involving using the capacity of your on-premises/hosted services and then if this capacity is close to being exceeded, access cloud based services to satisfy the increased demand, as required.  This speaks to the hybrid cloud model that is being referenced more and more.

Finally, the focus on security as a reason for not progressing with cloud services needs to be noted. As ENISA has said in their cloud computing risk assessment, prospective customers “need assurance that providers are following sound security practices in migrating risks facing both the customer and the provider”. They further recommend that one of the priority areas of research should be focused on building trust in the cloud.

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