The merits of cloud have long been a point of discussion. Is a public or private cloud more preferable? What should government consider versus the private sector when using a cloud-based content delivery network (CDN)?
The four-hour outage of a public cloud in March, which impacted hundreds of thousands of websites, re-ignited the debate. While this episode seemingly highlighted the pitfalls of the cloud, particularly the public cloud, agencies shouldn’t panic — there still isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to deployment. Instead, agencies should be educated on all facets of cloud, and understand the pros and cons of every option, as well as contingency plans.
Regulations, strict budgets and aging legacy technology are limiting the capabilities of government at every level, but migrating data to the cloud allows agencies to adapt and adjust. Many government organizations are finding that cloud-based applications and services are an effective way to meet both the current and long-term needs that a government Web portal requires. Cloud computing has the potential to play a major role in addressing the inefficiencies in some government IT environments while improving government service delivery. It can also help agencies coping with the need to quickly deliver highly reliable, innovative services despite strains on resources.
Agencies that have decided to make the move to cloud should evaluate their needs and budget when deciding to opt for the public or private cloud. Most cloud adopters are more likely to select the private cloud over public for apps that handle sensitive information or are highly specialized, which is the case for many government agencies. The stability and security of the private cloud are its biggest benefits. But the flexibility of the public cloud is also attractive — services can be quickly turned up and turned back down depending on the storage needs of the organization. The flexibility of the public cloud also offers opportunity for cost savings.
One of the pitfalls of moving applications to the cloud is that there’s a domino effect any time there is a problem. No agency is immune to the possibility of an outage. The most common causes of outages are typically software related, or in the recent case, human error. But there are a number of steps that agencies can take to be better prepared for potential issues.
Agencies should not let the outage earlier this year deter them from migrating to the cloud, either public or private, as cloud-based storage holds many advantages. Moving to cloud-based services means that agencies don’t need to invest in or maintain the infrastructure, hardware or bandwidth required to deliver Web portal services, instead delivering specific IT capabilities as they are needed. Such an offering is particularly important when a government portal offers services that fluctuate in demand or consume a large amount of bandwidth, all while reducing cost, deployment time and complexity.
Tom Ruff is vice president of public sector for Akamai.